Monday, August 25, 2014

The Far Side of the Sky

The Far Side of the Sky
Daniel Kalla

The Far Side of the Sky

Genre: Historical Fiction

Summary (from Goodreads):  November 9, 1938—Kristallnacht—the Nazis unleash a night of terror for Jews all across Germany. Meanwhile, the Japanese Imperial Army rampages through China and tightens its stranglehold on Shanghai, a city that becomes the last haven for thousands of desperate European Jews.

Dr. Franz Adler, a renowned surgeon, is swept up in the wave of anti-Semitic violence and flees to Shanghai with his daughter. At a refugee hospital, Franz meets an enigmatic nurse, Soon Yi “Sunny” Mah. The chemistry between them is intense and immediate, but Sunny’s life is shattered when a drunken Japanese sailor murders her father.

The danger escalates for Shanghai’s Jews as the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor. Facing starvation and disease, Franz struggles to keep the refugee hospital open and protect his family from a terrible fate.

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 the everyday quest for survival.

Review:  The premise of this story is unique, educating readers about the thousands of German and Austrian Jews who escaped to Shanghai prior to World War 2.  The descriptions of the city were fascinating, and the plot was enjoyable.  But I felt like the characters were a little flat, the dialogue occasionally awkward, and some events too stereotypical.  The author also depicts snippets of life during a four year period, often skipping 6 months or a year before moving on to the next section.  Some of these gaps didn't bother me, but others seemed like they skipped too many important parts of the story.  The ending also came at a surprising time, about halfway through the war, and I would expect that the second half of the war would be equally challengeing for the Viennese refugees.  I wonder if a sequel is planned?  I wanted to love this book, but instead, I'll just say that I enjoyed it.

Rating: 3.5 stars

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