Last week I had the pleasure of seeing Kirsty Manning talk about her new book – The Jade Lily – at my local Harry Hartog store. I won copies of both of Kirsty’s books (this one and The Midsummer Garden) in a giveaway, and when they arrived I was super excited – they both sounded totally in my wheelhouse!
The Jade Lily follows two connected stories – in one it is the late 1930s and Romy is a young Jewish girl who has escaped Austria, fleeing with her family to Shanghai. In the other it is is 2016 and Romy’s granddaughter Alexandra is trying to find out more about her Chinese heritage (Alexandra’s mum was adopted from China by Romy and her husband). Here’s the synopsis of the book.
What is Kirsty Manning’s The Jade Lily about?
1939: Two young girls meet in Shanghai, also known as the “Paris of the East”. Beautiful local Li and Jewish refugee Romy form a fierce friendship, but the deepening shadows of World War II fall over the women as they slip between the city’s glamorous French Concession district and the teeming streets of the Shanghai Ghetto. Yet soon the realities of war prove to be too much for these close friends as they are torn apart.
2016: Fleeing London with a broken heart, Alexandra returns to Australia to be with her grandparents, Romy and Wilhelm. Her grandfather is dying, and over the coming weeks Romy and Wilhelm begin to reveal the family mysteries they have kept secret for more than half a century. As fragments of her mother’s history finally become clear, Alexandra struggles with what she learns while more is also revealed about her grandmother’s own past in Shanghai.
After Wilhelm dies, Alexandra flies to Shanghai, determined to trace her grandparents’ past. Peeling back the layers of their hidden lives, she is forced to question what she knows about her family—and herself.
My review of The Jade Lily by Kirsty Manning
I really enjoyed the plot (plots) in this books, and the beautiful, descriptive writing made it even better. The sights and smells – good and bad – were described so perfectly in this book, I felt like it really helped transport me to Shanghai and I felt completely immersed in the story. I especially loved the description of food and herbs and traditional medicine throughout – herb lore and the ‘medicine/healer women’ are some of my favourite things in books.
Kirsty spoke so beautifully about the books – her inspiration and her research, and how important it was to her to represent this time and place appropriately. It was so interesting to hear about her discussions with people who had lived the experience she was writing about – living in Shanghai during WW2 – while she worked on the book. I think it is always interesting to hear about the process authors take to make sure a story is told in an appropriate way when they writing something outside of their own experiences. You could tell from the way Kirsty spoke about her research that this had been super important to her, and it seems like she has done a wonderful job. (Check out her website for some info about her inspiration and research for The Jade Lily, including a video where she talks a bit about it).
Overall, this was a gorgeous book, and the event was really special. I’m looking forward to reading The Midsummer Garden too!
The Jade Lily by Kirsty Manning
Out now from Allen & Unwin
Source: I won this copy, and a copy of The Midsummer Garden, in a giveaway
Category: Historical fiction
Want to see more reviews like this one? Check out these posts.
- The French Gift by Kirsty Manning
- The Riviera House by Natasha Lester
- The Boy with Blue Trousers by Carol Jones