Tag Archives: 1940s

Review: Rising Sun, Falling Shadow by Daniel Kalla

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Forge Books (September 24, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0765337649
  • Source: Publisher

*Note: This is the sequel to The Far Side of the Sky. It is recommended that you read this book first.

1943 Shanghai: Over 20,000 Jewish refugees seeking safety in Shanghai are forced by the Japanese to move into a “relocation” camp, a one-kilometer area known as the “Shanghai Ghetto.”  Dr. Franz Adler and his new wife, Sunny, struggle to run the city’s only hospital for refugee Jews. The Adlers struggle to keep their family united, always fearful of being discovered by the Nazis or Japanese. Due to the internment of British and American citizens, Franz’s pregnant sister-in-law, Esther, is separated from her husband, Simon. While Simon is able to evade capture, the life he is forced to live in hiding is less than desirable.

While Franz tries to find the best in their current situation, Sunny cannot get over her father’s death and is desperate for revenge. Unbeknownst to Franz, Sunny joins in an underground resistance group.   Franz’s daughter, Hannah, barely a teen herself, struggles to be recognized as more than a young girl. This struggle puts her directly in harms way and she becomes involved in a smuggling ring, carrying contraband into restricted areas.  Meanwhile, Franz struggles to treat the injured refugees with minimal supplies, under the watchful eye of power-hungry individuals who would like to do away with the hospital and the Jewish refugees…permanently.

Kalla creates an incredible and terrifying world in Rising Sun, Falling Shadow. While the premise seems dark, an underlying element of hope and love of family is what stands out most to this reader. Additionally, although this is the second book in a series, the characters introduced in the first novel continue to grow and develop, becoming genuine individuals that readers will connect with and become attached to. Watching the family go through these numerous struggles, overcoming despite the highest of odds, is endearing and heartwarming.  What stands out to me most of all, however, is how little we as American citizens know about this torture and cruelty that transpired in Shanghai. We are all aware of the Nazi occupation in Germany but I am shocked to admit I was unaware of the atrocities that took place  against those struggling to seek refuge outside their homeland.

I genuinely do recommend that you do start with the first book in the series before starting this one. While it can serve as an adequate standalone, you will miss out on a great deal of character building and development by leaping right into Rising Sun, Falling Shadow. It’s a dark part of our world’s history that at times, is quite difficult to swallow. That said, what Kalla has created in this series is incredibly endearing, hopeful,  and ultimately, wholly rewarding. He doesn’t inundate the reader with overwhelming amounts of historical facts, instead focusing on the individuals who experienced it. Highly, highly recommended.

 

Review: The Secret of Nightingale Palace by Dana Sachs

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Original edition (February 19, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0062201034
  • Source: Publisher

Anna is shocked when she receives a phone call from her grandmother, Goldie. The two haven’t seen each other in five years after Goldie made it clear how she felt about Anna’s husband, Ford. Ford has since passed way to leukemia, yet the pain that caused the estrangement still lingers. Goldie’s sharp tongue and high resistance to mediocrity has caused a riff in their relationship. Anna is further stunned when Goldie asks her on a cross-country trip to San Francisco to return a collection of valuable Japanese art to its owner. The art, in Goldie’s possession since the 1940s, given to her by someone close to her heart before they entered a Japanese-American internment camp. For obvious reasons, the art holds a great deal of meaning to the elderly woman. Just how meaningful is unknown to Anna…until now.

Reluctantly, Anna agrees and the two embark on the cross-country journey in Goldie’s Rolls-Royce. As the journey passes, Anna’s strong feelings about her grandmother soften as Goldie reveals a terrible secret she’s kept hidden for over half a century. From her own struggles as a young Jewish immigrant to a love she was forced to abandon, Goldie realizes she must open up about her past in order to let Anna, still recovering from the loss of her husband, heal.

Alternating between Anna’s point of view in the present time to Goldie’s young adult years, The Secret of the Nightingale Palace tells a beautiful, yet also heartbreaking, story about the power of family, sacrifice, forgiveness, and ultimately, love. The journey Anna and Goldie takes is an incredibly enlightening one, Anna realizing the motive behind her grandmother’s pain and sharp conviction. Anna is certainly not a weak woman, but the loss of Ford, and the period preceding his death, has turned her into a shell of a woman. She’s unable to feel love or passion and instead throws everything into her job. Goldie realizes her granddaughter has so much more hope in her and is frightened that Anna will never live up to her full potential if she continues to dwell on the past.

The Secret of the Nightingale Palace is a truly rewarding novel that will pull at your heart-strings. The alternating timeline and point of view adds a completely new dimension of the story, showing a parallel in the lives of two women that are a lot alike, yet refuse to admit so. The historical aspect of this novel is incredibly well-developed, the reader given a glimpse of two cultures that are quite different, yet due to the treatment they received, ultimately have strong similarities.

What makes this novel so attractive are the incredibly strong, richly drawn-out characters. While they each had their faults and were incredibly fallible, both Anna and Goldie were characters readers can’t help but sympathize and relate to. Their relationship is rocky at best and it was tremendously rewarding to watch it grow, heal, and nurture during their journey. A truly strong and memorable novel, perfect for a wide-range of readers from fans of history to those drawn in by character-driven novels. Highly recommended.

 

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to review this book. Please be sure to check out the other stops in the tour.