Nov 16, 2012

Book Review: THE FAR SIDE OF THE SKY by Daniel Kalla

Title: The Far Side of the Sky by Daniel Kalla
Published June 5, 2012; Forge Books
Genre: historical novel
Source: library book
 April 14, 1940, Shanghai...
"Can you believe we have already been in Shanghai for almost a year and a half, Franz?"
Esther asked from the armchair where she sat lengthening Hannah's school skirt.
"Feels more like a lifetime and a half,"Franz replied.
"Ja," Eshter sighed. "Quite a lot has happened since, no?"
"You might say so, Essie!"
(ch. 24)
Description: In November 1938 after a night of terror for Jews across Germany, Dr. Franz Adler, a surgeon in Vienna, flees to Shanghai, China with his young daughter Hannah and his brother's widow, Esther. At a refugee hospital, Franz befriends Sunny, a nurse and the daughter of an American mother and a Chinese doctor. Franz struggles to keep the refugee hospital open and protect Hannah and Esther under deprivation, danger, and under Japanese occupation of the city. The danger escalates when Germany demands the return of Shanghai's Jews to Germany.

The Far Side of the Sky focuses on a short but extraordinary period of Chinese, Japanese, and Jewish history when cultures converged and heroic sacrifices were part of a quest for survival. (publisher)

Comments: I've long been interested in this period of history - Shanghai before and during occupation by the Japanese. I have also read about the German Jews who escaped to Shanghai, the only place left that would accept them, just before WWII began. Shanghai became a refuge at the same time for the White Russians, those displaced by the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. These two groups joined the millions of Chinese refugees displaced by war and the Japanese presence, occupying the overcrowed multi-ethnic city of Shanghai.

What is fascinating about The Far Side of the Sky are other little know historical facts the book brings to light. Many German Jews settled in Shanghai and only left in the late 1940s when Mao Tse Tung expelled all foreigners from China. Also new to me was that the occupying Japanese refused to turn over the Jews in Shanghai to their allies, the Germans.

Very well written, Daniel Kalla' novel interweaves historical facts and persons into a story of  family, survival and humanity in an account of one part of one of the most devastating periods in modern history. He makes clear at the end of the book just what is history and what fiction.

Daniel Kalla  practices emergency medicine in Vancouver, British Columbia. This book parallels his family history of surviving the Holocaust, although he says the story is not his specific family history. He has written several other books which have been translated into eleven languages. Visit his website at


Book of Secrets said...

I remember reading that Russians took refuge in Shanghai, but I did not know that German Jews did the same. This sounds like a very interesting read.

The Bookworm said...

The Far Side of the Sky sounds like an interesting book, I love it when a historical weaves facts with fiction. Great review!

Leigh Ann said...

Sounds like an interesting book! I look forward to reading more of your reviews! I'm an old follower just stopping by. I just did an author interview/giveaway if you'd like to check it out and/or enter. I hope that you have a great weekend! :)

Leigh Ann
MaMa's Book Corner

Sam (Tiny Library) said...

This sounds interesting, as it's an aspect of WW2 I know very little about. Thanks for the recommendation.

Suko said...

Excellent review! This sounds fascinating!

Staci said...

this one really intrigues me. I never knew that China accepted German Jews or that the country really played any role in protecting or giving safe haven to those being persecuted.

Sherry said...

Thanks for the recommendation. I think I'll check this one out.

hopeinbrazil said...

I like WWII history and wasn't aware that Jews had fled to China. Thanks for making me aware of this book.

Anna said...

I loved this book, so I'm so glad to see you really enjoyed it, too!

Booksnyc said...

I definitely didn't know that Shanghai had accepted German Jews and I agree that the fact that the Japanese didn't turn them over their Allies during the war. This book definitely sounds interesting!

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