Book Review: Nightfall Over Shanghai (Kalla)

Nightfall Over Shanghai

Author: Daniel Kalla © 2015

Publisher: Forge Books

Genre: Literature & Fiction

Subgenre: Historical Fiction, Jewish Fiction,

Reviewer: Sara

Book received by: Gift from family

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Synopsis:

Shanghai in 1944 is an increasingly dangerous place for the Jewish refugees, including the Adler family. Father, daughter and step-mother find themselves in the cross-hairs of Japanese officials, engaged in espionage and finding more trouble enters into their lives at every turn. With Americans threatening from the Pacific and Chinese encroaching from the west, the Japanese remain steadfast in their dedication to victory and honor, intentionally putting civilians in harm’s way. If they can survive the allied assaults on Shanghai, what lies ahead holds the long-forgotten notions of hope, peace and opportunity.

Review:

Busy moms (and dads): The final book in the historical fiction trilogy concludes the story of the Adler family and their friends during World War II and the Japanese occupation of Shanghai, with similar trials and tribulations to books one and two. That’s not to say it’s the same book, or even the same plot lines, but a continuation of the stories, wrap up of some plot lines and a bit of open-ended in terms of the future of the surviving characters after the war.

Yes, that’s right. Not everyone lives. Never fear, I’m not saying what happens, or to whom! The characters continue to be well-developed, realistic and flawed. Mistakes are made, some repeated, despite the lessons those characters learned in previous books. The conflict with Japanese leadership over the Jewish ghetto and members of the family continues. An SS officer from the Adler’s past returns to continue making threats to them. New characters are introduced, all purposeful and with intriguing story lines that draw the reader back into the story of the Adler family.

The overall book, despite a well-constructed and deliberate plot, did feel less engaging and tense than the previous two books. It had been more than a year since my reading of book two, Rising Sun, Falling Shadow, and with all the story lines that I remembered being wrapped up in that book, I was a little surprised that there was enough story left for a full third book. This thought was further substantiated by a few plot lines in Nightfall Over Shanghai that felt forced. One example is the story line about the SS officer; it probably adds the least to the book and almost feels like a required detail and distraction. Certainly SS officers and Nazis who were in Shanghai did persist in cruel and despicable behaviors, even after the tides had turned, but for the purpose of this book, it seemed superfluous to everything else going on. Sunny falls into spying (again) and Hannah can’t seem to resist the boy who caused so much trouble for her family in Rising Sun that her father was arrested and tortured. Those details aside, the book does do an excellent job of portraying the desperation and fear felt by the entire refugee community held under the thumb of the Japanese military. At a time when refugees of present day, such as those from war-torn Syria, are struggling for acceptance and safety in other countries, the struggle of the Jews in 1940s Shanghai seems particularly poignant. Nightfall also brings closure to the story of the Adler family and their community with the end of World War II.

My final thoughts are that the book is a good one. It did not captivate me with the intensity of The Far Side of the Sky or even Rising Sun, Falling Shadow, but did round out the story. When I closed the book, I felt the story of the Adler’s received the closure it was due. It also gave a thorough history on the Jewish emigration to China, their war-time fate and post-war lives, something I was not familiar with prior to these books. Certainly worth the time of a busy mom (and dad), and appropriate to read with the older kids.

***

Have you read Nightfall Over Shaghai (or either of the first two books)? What was your favorite part? How did you feel it compared with The Far Side of the Sky  and Rising Sun, Falling Shadow? Was this history with which you were familiar, or was it new to you in reading this story?

Is Nightfall Over Shanghai on your “to-read” shelf? Have you read other books by Daniel Kalla? Or similar historical fictions books you would recommend? Please share in the comments, I’m always on the lookout for a good HF story!

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Featured image: Hardcover jacket

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