The Song of the Jade Lily is beautifully told in two timelines The first is 1939 Shanghai Two young girls, Li and Romy, become friends Li is from Shanghai, and Romy is a refugee from Vienna The two become fast friends World War II seems far away at first, but it descends upon Shanghai and these girls and tears apart their friendship The second timeline is 2016 when a young Alexandra returns to Australia because her grandfather Wilhelm is dying As Wilhelm spends his last days, he and his wife, Romy, share family secrets they ve kept hidden for decades Alexandra travels to Shanghai to find answers about her grandparents What she finds has her doubting everything she thought was true The Song of the Jade Lily is an engrossing and beautifully written story It s about friendship, strength, and resilience in even the most horrific of times This is a book whose characters climbed inside my heart, and I m not sure they ll ever leave The mystery is intriguing, and I loved the Chinese culture infused in the story It was a delectable reading experience, and I hope you get a chance to read it, too I received a complimentary copy All opinions are my own My reviews can also be found on my blog www.jennifertarheelreader.com I ended up being a bit surprised at how much I enjoyed this book I knew before I began that it had dual timelines which is a technique I am getting bored with I frequently long for a straight, continuous timeline told by one unchanging narrator It would be refreshing Anyway the dual timeline in The Jade Lily is okay as my interest in the past and the present was fairly equal throughout Romy and Nina were fascinating characters when they were young and when they were old Alexandra was a useful means to explore the present.It was a long book, well padded with cultural revelations about Asian food and medicines That was all okay too but the most interesting part was the story of the Austrian Jews and the appalling events they had to live through The fact that they escaped one arena of that awful war only to fall into another one was indescribably sad, as was the innocence of the people and their lack of knowledge about what was actually happening in the detention camps back in Germany.By the middle of the book I was totally engrossed and I sat up very late to finish it I had guessed Romy s secret before the end and there was a nice, tidy conclusion All very well done indeed and I shall look out for by this author. The Jade Lily is a dual time line narrative.1938 Vienna, Austria 11 year old Romy and her parents flee to Shanghai after one of her brothers is shot by German soldiers and the other is herded away with other young Jewish men On the three month trip to Shanghai by boat, Romy meets Nina and they become firm friends Their lives take very different paths but bonded by the unspeakable events of war they remain firm friends for life.2016 Melbourne, Australia 36 year old Alexandra has rushed home from England to be by her dying grandfather s side, leaving behind a broken romance Her Grandmother, Romy, is stoic and strong and with lifelong friend Nina by her side she goes about her business without a fuss This stoic, strong attitude is so endearing and understandable from the women that have been through countless injustices throughout their life and have learned to keep going and do whatever you can to survive through these adversities with no complaint.Alexandra s parents died in a car accident when she was young and she was brought up by her grandparents She knows that her mother Sophia was adopted by Romy and Wilhelm There is much secrecy around Sophia s adoption and whenever Alexandra brought it up with her grandparents she could see they were genuinely distressed, so she let the matter drop Alexandra s story is one of trying to find out who she is, what makes her the way she is, her ancestry Armed with nothing but an old photo, her mother s adoption certificate, an old diary and a jade necklace she accepts a job offer in Shanghai and starts to ask questions.When Alexandra visited the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum and saw her great grandparents and grandmother s names engraved on the wall I could almost feel the goosebumps myself How surreal this moment must have been The Jade Lily is an atmospheric tale of the atrocities of war and the stoic, strong women that endured it.Manning has written a heart felt historical fiction detailing the hardships endured by the displaced and the unfailing spirit of these people to keep going when all seems lost.A large focus throughout the story is the blending of cultures as refugees from different countries introduce their cultures and foods into Shanghai Traditional Chinese medicine is also explored with the healing power and well being benefits of different blends of herbs and acupuncture Shanghai was the star of this story The people, the food, the customs, the countryside, the refugees and the architecture all feature prominently, then and now in this swirling metropolis where decadence and depravity skipped hand in hand and it seemed rules were meant to be broken The Jade Lily is an intensively researched story that conveys the shocking cruelties endured by the displaced during the war and one woman s journey of strength and love as she comes of age during these trying times The vivid descriptions are a sensual feast of odours, flavours, sounds and sights from the streets of Shanghai.If you read Historical Fiction this is one book you must add to your shelf I received an uncorrected proof copy from the publisher The Burgeoning Bookshelf Kirsty Manning has written a stunning story filled with secrets, sorrow, and resilience 1939 Vienna Austria Romy s family realizes it is in their best interest to leave the country But the only place that will take them in without a visa is shanghai Shanghai is miles away, a brief respite from the war, but it isn t long before shanghai is also impacted by WWII 2016 Alexandra returns home to Australia from London to see her beloved grandfather before he dies Alexandra was raised by her grandparents after her mother Sophia was killed in a car accident Alexandra knows that her mother was adopted brought over to Australia by her grandfather and grandmother, Romy Alexander has taken a new job in Shanghai Inn is determined to figure out where her mother came from The only information Alexander has is a necklace, a birth certificate, a picture, and journal Will Alexandra discover her roots Or are some secrets best kept in the past This was an amazing book that introduced me to a part of history I previously had no idea about When I think of WWII I certainly never think of China I had no idea China took in so many Jewish refugees I was ignorant to the tensions between Japan and China during WWII The beauty of historical fiction is learning something that you probably otherwise would never have learned Romy and her family have found themselves in the unfortunate position of leaving one horrible situation to find themselves in the midst of another I once again was completely in awe of the resilience of people The characters and the setting of this story completely popped off the pages Kirsty Manning has seamlessly woven together the present and the past in this compelling tale Both timelines completely captivated me and all these characters stole my heart The friendship between Romy and Lee was so beautiful to read about I loved how we really got to learn about the Chinese culture through Romy s eyes I found the Chinese medicine fascinating Romy was such an authentic character, my heart broke for her with some of the letters she wrote to her brother Daniel back in a work camp in Austria I was so curious as to what the secret was she was keeping from her granddaughter Alexandra, and what her motivations were Alexandra was also an intriguing character I loved discovering the past right alongside her And I love the little bit of romance she had going on with John A beautiful story brimming with family, friendship, and culture This is not a short book, but it went so quick I was so riveted by the story and I just needed to know what the secret was I also am completely intrigued by all eastern cultures and just love getting to know about them Simply put this was an evocative story that all fans of historical fiction will completely devour The audiobook is narrated by Saskia Maarleveld who in my opinion is one of the absolute best There are so many accents in this book and she nailed them all She gave each character their own distinct voice and I never was confused as to who is narrating the story A stellar job Big thanks to William Morrow and Harper Audio for my copy of this book In 2016, fleeing London with a broken heart, Alexandra returns to Australia to be with her grandparents, Romy and Wilhelm, when her grandfather is dying With only weeks left together, her grandparents begin to reveal the family mysteries they have kept secret forthan half a century In 1939, two young girls meet in Shanghai, the Paris of the East beautiful local Li and Viennese refugee Romy form a fierce friendship But the deepening shadows of World War Two fall over the women as Li and Romy slip between the city s glamorous French Concession and the desperate Shanghai Ghetto Eventually, they are forced separate ways as Romy doubts Li s loyalties.After Wilhelm dies, Alexandra flies to Shanghai, determined to trace her grandparents past As she peels back the layers of their hidden lives, she begins to question everything she knows about her family and herself A compelling and gorgeously told tale of female friendship, the price of love, and the power of hardship and courage to shape us all. It was 1938 and Romy Bernfeld was forced to flee Vienna with her parents after the Nazis began rounding up Jewish residents Shanghai was a different city completely bewildered and afraid, Romy found friendship with a neighbour, Li and her brother, while Romy s mother was shattered and depressed Her father, a doctor, began working at the local hospital Gradually Romy found her way around the French Concession where they lived But with the Japanese invasion, everything changed once again.Alexandra Laird had returned to Melbourne, Australia to be with her Opa who was dying It was 2016, and the thought of losing him devastated her he and Oma Wilhelm and Romy had been there for her for as long as she could remember Alexandra had no idea how she would cope when he was gone Her transfer to Shanghai with work felt fortuitous she could research her grandparents past while there Oma had told her very little of what had happened during the war years.But what would Alexandra find Her search was frustrating, but as secrets came to light, she found questions than answers The Jade Lily by Aussie author Kirsty Manning is my first by this author, and it won t be my last A thoroughly enjoyable historical fiction novel which was set mainly in Shanghai, with the narration in two timelines by both a young Romy and Alexandra I couldn t put it down Heartbreaking, filled with hope, a lifetime of friendship, and masses of courage, The Jade Lily is one I highly recommend.With thanks to Allen Unwin for my uncorrected proof to read and review. Manning makes a triumphant return to the Australian historical fiction scene with her second novel, The Jade Lily It is a novel that takes the reader from the precarious times of World War II Austria, to the cosmopolitan streets of Shanghai, through to modern day Melbourne If you are looking for a tale that will sweep you away into times gone by, look no further than The Jade Lily.The Jade Lily is a multiple time frame narrative that begins with present day heroine Alexandra Nursing a broken heart, Alexandra feels she must escape London and return home to Australia Embraced by the love of her dear grandparents, Romy and Wilhelm, Alexandra s return home is marked by the sad decline of her grandfather, who only has a short time left to live In these precious few weeks with her grandparents, long held family secrets are unravelled Linking to Alexandra s present day journey is the powerful story of two girls who meet in Shanghai in 1939 The fateful meeting between Li, a local girl and Romy, a young girl who has escaped Vienna with her family, will change both their lives forever An unmistakable bond forms between these two young girls, which helps the both of them survive the dangers of World War II However, a big test to their friendship occurs and the two drift away from one another Romy in particular finds it hard to support Li when her heart feels like it has been broken The Jade Lily links these two different pathways to self discovery when Alexandra makes the journey to Shanghai Armed with only a few pieces of information on the past her grandparents tried so hard to lock away, Alexandra is determined to discover her hidden ancestry The Jade Lily is one engrossing tale that deftly combines the power of friendship, all encompassing love, the limitations of war and it reminds us of the valour displayed by those who lived through one of the harshest points in our world history.If there is one novel that I have been eagerly awaiting to get my hands on, it is my favourite Australian author, Kirsty Manning s second and latest novel, The Jade Lily Those who follow my reviews and reading tastes know that I have endorsed Kirsty Manning s writing and her first novel, The Midsummer Garden as much as I can I declared The Midsummer Garden my favourite novel of 2017 and I read a lot of books I also openly stated Kirsty Manning is my Stella Spark Kirsty is a writer who inspires and transports you to another world through her novels So perhaps now you have a good feel for the high level of anticipation and excitement I had going into The Jade Lily I am pleased to report that I simply adored The Jade Lily and if I could award than the standard 5 star rating, I would I think when a novel is so good and has touched you in a way that The Jade Lily has with this reader, you find yourself lost for words I do believe the best I can do for The Jade Lily and this review is to let the story speak for itself I was literally blown away by the hidden history of this novel It is a good thing that we are still digging up snippets of pertinent World War II happenings and showcasing these pivotal events via quality historical fiction titles In The Jade Lily s case, the hidden history of Shanghai s Jewish population and the amount of refugees who were welcomed into this part of the world, where other countries blankly refused, absolutely floored me It is hard not to read this novel and feel a lump in your throat form I also felt a strong sense of regret wash over me as I uncovered this rather concealed moment of history.The Jade Lily takes a multiple narrative approach to the format of the novel, which is a style of novel I always gravitate towards As with Manning s first novel, The Jade Lily effortlessly sews the threads of the present day together with the past precisely Manning is an expert in the art of the slow reveal, gently enticing the reader in both aspects of her narrative, so one informs the other I loved the family secrets and secrets pertaining to Alexandra s ancestry that defined this novel It was one of the overwhelming reasons why I was utterly absorbed in the novel I enjoyed it immensely and I liked the final turn of events in the novel, I welcomed the final twist with gusto Manning s characterisation is finely tuned I loved the presentation of both her present day and past characters I gave my heart out to Romy, I just loved her both in the present and in the past I think Nina is the hidden heroine of the novel and for me she really stood out as being so central to the storyline Meanwhile, the characters that define the Shanghai wartime storyline are just so colourful they burst from the pages of this novel.Setting wise, both the time period and placement of The Jade Lily was sculpted to perfection I have nothing to fault and I must praise Kristy Manning for getting a diverse range of locales across the globe and specific time periods so precise It is the finer details that Manning carefully includes in her novel that really makes this book something special It is clear that Manning has done an exceptional job in combining all her relevant resources to inform each setting of her novel extremely well.There is so much to love about the themes in this novel, from family secrets, ancestry, the World War II experiences, refugees, displacement, female friendship and forbidden love Manning also inserts a rich cultural aspect to her novel, especially in the Shanghai based aspects, where we learn some much about traditional medicine and techniques, cooking, architecture and the stunning gardens of this part of the world The most moving part of the novel for me were the letters incorporated within the past story between Romy s brother David and his family while he was in Dachau These were moving, authentic and utterly devastating.Manning has devoted a lot of time and energy on the finishing touches of her novel Be sure to check out her Author s Note and detailed sources section, which adds further insight into the making of this great novel.As I come to the close of this review, I put my hand and my heart and appeal to you, if there is one book I can recommend, it is The Jade Lily It is a very special, one of a kind novel, that will enhance your reading mind, providing a most accessible approach to a little known aspect of our shared world history I wish to thank Allen Unwin for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.The Jade Lily is book 49 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge Jewish families were fleeing Austria, and Romy s family was on its way to China without her brothers Michael and Daniel Michael had been shot, and Daniel was taken to Dachau Concentration Camp.China was the only country during the war that they could enter without a visa.We meet Romy and her family as they make the journey and settle in Shanghai in 1939.We then move to 2016 and meet Alexandra who has traveled to Australia from London because her grandfather who raised her was dying.Being back in her childhood home was bittersweet and was heartbreaking when she had to leave her grandmother to return to her job and head to Shanghai a place Alexandra had never been The only good thing about leaving was that Alexandra might find out who her mother really was and where her mother had really originated from.I enjoyed Alexandra s search for clues and the secret Romy was keeping from her granddaughter about who her mother was as well as learning of life in Shanghai during the war.The back and forth in time was smoothly done, and the characters were authentically portrayed You will fall in love with the characters and respect their strength Ms Manning s writing flows beautifully along with the intriguing story line.If you enjoy historical fiction, learning about another part of the world during WWII, and learning customs of the Chinese culture, you won t want to miss reading THE SONG OF JADE LILY.THE SONG OF JADE LILY is an enjoyable, heartbreaking, heartwarming, mesmerizing, educational read This book was given to me as an ARC by the publisher and LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review. At a time when no other country, including US, UK, Australia, would open its doors to Jews fleeing the concentration camps, Shanghai had opened its doors to than twenty thousand refugees fleeing Europe during WWII It was possible before 1940 to be released from a concentration camp if you had a valid passport, visa, permit to take up residency in another country, and proof of transport Such release was always subject to the prisoner leaving Germany within a limited time Vienna, Nov 1938 Young Romy can t understand why Jews are so hated The synagogue s library of rare books and manuscripts lay in a pile of smoldering cinders on the footpath Not able to obtain visas, her family is left with only one option where visas are not needed Shanghai.In Shanghai, International Committee set up boarding houses for the Jewish refugees The area is safe for Jews, but relations between Chinese and Japanese have been strained since 1931.As welcoming as Shanghai felt when Romy arrived there with her family, now it feels as bad as Vienna The relations between Chinese and Japanese become even worried Romy s family is forced to move to a ghetto She watches her friends disappear First Vienna, now Shanghai unwelcomes them.2016 Alexandra returns to Australia to be with her grandparents, Romy and Wilhelm Her grandpa is dying and he mentions a name Li Alexandra has never heard either of her grandparents mention a Li Then he mentions Shanghai and three of them Alexandra wonders if he is lucid, because none of it makes sense.While in Shanghai on her new posting, Alexandra uses her free time to research her Chinese heritage as her grandparents never wanted to talk about their adopted Chinese daughter.This multilayered story skillfully reveals the past story of WWII Shanghai and the present day Shanghai characterized by its gardens and laneways full of sizzling dumplings and noodles weaving into it love that matures with each challenge and friendship that deepens with each step All this tested by the power of war and how hardship and courage can shape a person The author vividly captures the feel of the era This book was read by experts for historical credibility and accuracy of traditional Chinese medicine and also by those who lived in Shanghai during the Occupation and migrated to Australia afterward FB BestHistoricalFiction His voice started to crack and he took a deep breath When we feel that our grief will suffocate us and we simply don t know how to continue, we still have choices We can choose to give up, or we can choose to fill our time helping others, even if that means you have to step outside the rules sometimes to do the right the just thing Kirsty Manning presents a novel spun differently from the usual thread It s 1939 and the Bernfelds are fleeing Austria under the threat of Nazi occupation Dr Bernfeld is a physician with his wife, Marta, who is his assistant With help from Herr Bloch, they are able to book passage to Shanghai with their young daughter, Romy It is here that Manning will draw back the heaviness of a story long needing to be told She parallels her fictional story alongside the actual historical events happening in Shanghai during World War II with the Japanese takeover in China Initially, the Bernfelds took refuge in a section known as Frenchtown where Dr Bernfeld finds work in the local hospital As the war years progressed, we will find out just how oppressive life had become within the city of Shanghai for the original occupants and for those newly arriving Romy s story will take front and center as she and her parents adjust to their new life They anguish over family members left behind in Austria and situations beyond their control Manning sets up characters who will become deeply enmeshed in the lives of the Bernfelds Survival leans into every waking moment with incidents of the cruelties visited upon them and those within their circle.The Song of the Jade Lily will slide into 2016 showcasing the story of Alexandra, Romy s granddaughter Romy fled to Australia in the final years of the war But there are deep secrets that Romy keeps under lock and key within her heart Alexandra, a financial advisor living in London, has come to a juncture in her life in which she desires to know of her adopted mother s origins According to Romy, most paperwork and certificates were lost during the war But what is not lost is Alexandra s curiosity and persistence She will fly to Shanghai for answers And we will eventually get the real story..the real story of what occuried in Shanghai during those fateful years.I found this story to be so fascinating Kirsty Manning lays out a time and place in which a great many have no idea of what actually transpired in Shanghai during the war The Song of the Jade Lily reveals much in the reactions and the demands of humanity pressured by the evils of war And the question remains Would we rise to the occasion under similar circumstances Perhaps the uncertainty of the answer is an answer unto itself.