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16 April, 2014

Book Tour Review: Night in Shanghai by Nicole Mones

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Book Summary:

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Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Genre: Historical Fiction
In 1936, classical pianist Thomas Greene is recruited to Shanghai to lead a jazz orchestra of fellow African-American expats. From being flat broke in segregated Baltimore to living in a mansion with servants of his own, he becomes the toast of a city obsessed with music, money, pleasure and power, even as it ignores the rising winds of war.
Song Yuhua is refined, educated, and bonded since age eighteen to Shanghai’s most powerful crime boss in payment for her father’s gambling debts. Outwardly submissive, she burns with rage and risks her life spying on her master for the Communist Party.
Only when Shanghai is shattered by the Japanese invasion do Song and Thomas find their way to each other. Though their union is forbidden, neither can back down from it in the turbulent years of occupation and resistance that follow. Torn between music and survival, freedom and commitment, love and world war, they are borne on an irresistible riff of melody and improvisation to Night in Shanghai’s final, impossible choice.
In this impressively researched novel, Nicole Mones not only tells the forgotten story of black musicians in the Chinese Jazz age, but also weaves in a stunning true tale of Holocaust heroism little-known in the West.

Praise for Night in Shanghai

“Based on true episodes and peppered with the lives and experiences of actual characters from the worlds of politics, music, the military, and the government, Mones’ engrossing historical novel illuminates the danger, depravity, and drama of this dark period with brave authenticity.” — Carol Haggas, Booklist
“Mones’ breathless and enlightening account of an African-American jazzman and his circle in prewar Shanghai… keep(s) the suspense mounting until the end.” — Kirkus Reviews
“Amid the plethora of World War II fiction, Mones’s fourth novel (after The Last Chinese Chef) offers a rarely seen African American and Asian perspective. Fans of works such as Amor Towles’s Rules of Civility will appreciate the use of jazz as the backdrop to a world at war. Historical fiction fans will not be disappointed.” — Library Journal
“With a magician’s sleight of hand, Nicole Mones conjures up the jazz-filled, complex, turbulent world of Shanghai just before World War II. A feast for the senses…the lives and loves of expatriate musicians intertwine with the growing tensions between the Communist Party and the Nationalist Party, while the ominous threats from the Japanese stir the winds of war. A rich and thoroughly captivating read.” – Gail Tsukiyama, author of The Samurai’s Garden
“What an incredible thing Mones does in this novel of the compelling, sexy, rich and complicated world of historical Shanghai. Every page reveals some custom, some costume, some food, some trick of language that exposes a fascinating moment in history — the Japanese invasion on the eve of World War II. Mones weaves the multiple strands of her story much the way themes and melodies are woven into the jazz her protagonist plays, with subtle and suggestive undertones of human greed, power, and passion.” – Marisa Silver, author of Mary Coin

Buy the Book

About the Author

Displaying 03_Nicole Mones.jpgA newly launched textile business took Nicole Mones to China for the first time in 1977, after the end of the Cultural Revolution. As an individual she traded textiles with China for eighteen years before she turned to writing about that country. Her novels Night in Shanghai, The Last Chinese Chef, Lost in Translation and A Cup of Light are in print in more than twenty-two languages and have received multiple juried prizes, including the Kafka Prize (year’s best work of fiction by any American woman) and Kiriyama Prize (finalist; for the work of fiction which best enhances understanding of any Pacific Rim Culture).
Mones’ nonfiction writing on China has also appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Gourmet, the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post. She is a member of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations. For more information visir www.nicolemones.com

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Monday, April 7
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Tuesday, April 8
Spotlight & Giveaway at The Bookworm
Wednesday, April 9
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Thursday, April 10
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Friday, April 11
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Monday, April 14
Review & Giveaway at A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall
Tuesday, April 15
Review, Interview, & Giveaway at Drey’s Library
Wednesday, April 16
Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews
Friday, April 18
Review & Giveaway at Our Wolves Den
Monday, April 21
Guest Post at Jorie Loves a Story
Review at WTF Are You Reading?
Tuesday, April 22
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Wednesday, April 23
Review at Jorie Loves a Story
Thursday, April 24
Interview at Mina’s Bookshelf
Friday, April 25
Guest Post & Giveaway at Bibliophilia, Please
Monday, April 28
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Review:

Series: N/A
Release Date: 4 March, 2014
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
ISBN: 9780547516172
Edition: Hardback
Rating: 
Review Written: 15 April, 2014
What comes to mind when someone mentions 1936 Shanghai? Nightlife? Jazz music? Political struggle? All of these things are things that were going in full swing for Shanghai, a free port even in the 1930s. Thomas Greene, a jazz pianist who really doesn't know how to play jazz, has just been hired on as the new bandmaster for the Kansas City Kings who play at The Royal in Shanghai. Hired by Lin Ming to work under the not-so-hidden boss of the Green Gang, Thomas finds himself caught up in the political struggle between the two parties in China and the advance of the Japanese.

Thomas's first worry however has nothing to do with the unstable politics or precarious position of whether or not the Japanese will take Shanghai. Instead it is the worry that he will be discovered a fraud and dismissed immediately from his job as the bandleader of the Kansas City Kings. Raised and taught music by a mother who disapproved of variation, Thomas struggles to find his own flowing style within the Kings. To make matters worse, many of his band members find it hard to trust him, judging his inability to play anything on the fly as a sign of weakness. 

As the novel progresses, so does Thomas's career, and his interest in Song Yuhau, a bondmaid to the leader of the Green Gang. At the end of part one, Thomas and Song end up together, for a short while at least, while the world seems to collapse around them as Shanghai falls to the Japanese. And then Song goes north, in search of the Communist Party of China's headquarters in hopes of serving her cause. 

Mones's writing style is captivating and pulls the reader into the middle of Shanghai. Upon receiving the book, I found that once I got into it, I couldn't put it down. Music has always played a big part of my life, and it was good to read of a character who loved it. The time period also fascinated me. It's very unusual to read about China in such a turmoil filled time. Still, while reading it, I found that I was sometimes thrown off by the small phrases of Shanghainese that were inserted into the text as well as the names. It was just a bit disconcerting to be reading and then hit an italicized phrase.

 Overall, the book was a good read, and one I highly recommend to anyone interested in the 1930s and China.

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