Monday, April 28, 2014

G301 Book Review of Night in Shanghai by Nicole Mones

Name of Book: Night in Shanghai

Author: Nicole Mones

ISBN: 978-0-547-51617-2

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Type of book: China, 1936-1941, African-American male/Chinese female relationship, jazz, music, Japanese, WWII, conquer, night world, Shanghai, Chinese, Communists vs Nationalists, Jews in Shanghai, Jew question, rescuing Jews

Year it was published: 2014


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.


With exception of Song Yuhua, I feel that the characters didn't seem to change, or that we spent little time with them to see them change. Thomas Greene is an African-American classical musician who was scouted by Lin Ming and he arrived to Shanghai. I would guess he is best described as loyal, and he can easily be seduced by beauty. He has suffered a lot, and is very strong when it comes to overcoming adversity. Song Yuhua is slightly similar to Thomas Greene, but she is trying to discover what she wants to do and she has strong beliefs and is willing to sacrifice anything and everything to fully realize her potential. Lin Ming is fearful of failure and is looking for perfection that doesn't exist. There are other characters as well, such as a Japanese admiral who loves jazz and who has paradoxical values when it comes to Jews and Chinese and few others, but it really was a joy to make this journey with the book.


Love comes in unexpected packages


Its written in third person narrative, primarily from Thomas Greene's and Song Yuhua's points of view, although we also have Lin Ming from time to time. I think the way it begins is with Thomas Greene arriving to Shanghai and realizing how different it is from Baltimore. From his point of view, there is sort of elegance and magic about Shanghai and the night club where he performs. However, as time goes on, he becomes adjusted and soon enough, the magic fades away and unwanted reality sets in. Besides the ambiguous ending, I honestly don't have anything to complain about.

Author Information:
(From Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour)

A 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 03_Nicole MonesChina 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


Reading this book was like reading The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald (I mean it in a complimentary way.) The writing seemed to be styled like a seamless musical piece. I was very impressed with the book. In beginning there was the mystery, love, the thrill of plunging into something breathtaking. Masterfully, little by little, almost without notice, darker information emerges, taking away the breathtaking beauty of beginnings, and leaving the reader almost without ladders to climb out. Years and years back I attempted to read Nicole Mones, but at the time I wasn't ready for her. Yet when I was offered a chance by a publicity agent, I agreed and am very glad I did so. The book presents information not only about the jazz scene in Shanghai, but it also talks about the Jewish situation and how Chinese offered their assistance to Jews and how they have done their best to insure that those who came over stayed safe.I really admired Ho Feng-Shan who wrote many fake Visas to Jews, and there seemed to be an irony of sorts between how Japanese are towards Jews and how they are towards Chinese. Anyone but me also notice that?

This is for Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour

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

5 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

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