Mar 21, 2013

White Shanghai by Elvira Baryakina

"Would you teach me to drink tea," Nina asked.
"Without a doubt."
Daniel knew so much about Chinese and Japanese art. He could talk for hours about special ways of manufacturing bone china, arranging gardens,ancient poetry and ink drawing. He was a person of such rate talents that Nina wanted to pinch herself to make sure she wasn't dreaming. (ch. 18)
Comments: This period in Shanghai's history fascinates me. The city was overrun with refugees from all over the world, during the time when the Chinese themselves were undergoing similar hardships and political turmoil.

Book description:  A melting pot of different nations, fused by war and commerce, this was the Shanghai of the 1920s. The Great Powers are greedily exploiting China for its cheap labor and reaping the cruel rewards of the opium trade. However, as ships carrying the remnants of the defeated Russian White Army enter Shanghai, the uneasy balance of this frenetic international marketplace comes under threat.

Among the refugees is Klim Rogov, a journalist whose life and marriage have been destroyed by the Russian revolution - all he has left are his quick wits and a keen worldliness that will serve him well in the lawless jungle of Shanghai. He finds work as a reporter in a British-run newspaper, rubbing shoulders with international gangsters while defying the intrigues of sinister communist agents, clinging to the hope that someday he'll be reunited with his wife, Nina.

This complete English translation of Elvira Baryakina's White Shanghai reflects the greatest traditions of the Russian classics. The official website of the book is There you can find beautiful illustrations, maps, vintage photographs and much more."

Title: White Shanghai: A Novel of the Roaring Twenties in China by Elvira Baryahina
Published January 10, 2013; Glasoslav
Genre: historical novel set in Shanghai, Russia, and Bejing
Source: review copy from publisher/publicist

Other books to read about wartime Shanghai include China to Me, a partial autobiography by American journalist, Emily Hahn.


  1. One of several books of wartime Shanghai that I recommend.

  2. I am excited by this time period and place, and really want to read this one. I loved the quote you used as well. You don't often come across many books that are set in Shanghai in the 20's, so this is very appealing to me!!

  3. Very lovely presentation, Harvee. Learning about this era appeals to me as well.

  4. I agree that this period in China as well as world events as a whole is fascinating. A place like Shanghai during this period sounds like a great setting to intermix the variety of characters that you describe.

  5. Brian: It's not just fiction. There were really lots of White Russians in Shanghai as well as European refugees from Germany before and during and after WWII! A few stayed, many left in subsequent years.


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