Shanghai 1924. Sam Shuttleworth joins the Municipal Police to escape his working-class roots in Lancashire. He is looking for good pay, adventure and beautiful women.
Shanghai is torn by gang warfare, political instability and violence. After erotic affairs, and seeking stability, he marries his glamorous Russian lover. The relationship is tumultuous, with infidelities on both sides.
In the 1930s, Japan invades China and moves into Shanghai with consequent pillage, rape and cruelty. Sam has to negotiate between warring sides, and wonders if he will ever find peace amidst the chaos of his relationships and the bloody events of his career.
I was so excited to receive a copy of Love and Death in Shanghai after reading lots of books set in a contemporary setting, that I literally read it in a single sitting…
The fact that Love and Death in Shanghai has its roots in real life events and weaves a narrative around them is something which I especially loved about this book. I read it straight after the fabulous ‘I’ll be Gone in the Dark’ and I really enjoyed the post-reading research that I did to find out the ‘story behind the story’ in both cases.
All of you who’ve yearned to time travel to exotic climes and a very different world – Elizabeth’s book transports us to bustling and dramatic pre-war Shanghai and let me tell you, readers – I really feel like I got the chance to experience it for myself as if I was a time traveller magically transported there.
Love and Death in Shanghai is the kind of novel that I absolutely love. Sam and his Russian lover, Lulu are connected despite their very different backgrounds and experiences. Elizabeth writes both their characters so convincingly that you really feel that you’ve spent time in their world, making it very hard to pull yourself away. It’s a novel made for immersing yourself in on a hot summer afternoon and I got lost in it in this weekend in this stunning summer weather
Sam is a character with lots going on beneath the surface. His life is very different from the industrial British world he left behind and his new life in Shanghai is certainly far from dull. His varied connections and relationships draw us into the many worlds of Shanghai and we get to peek behind many doors that might have remained locked to us. The way we duck and weave with Sam from nightclubs to police business to high society is truly fascinating and such a fantastic technique to draw us closer to Sam and his world; I loved the idea that we were dropped into his world without all the answers and had to figure things out from the snippets we could gather – much as he would have had to.
Sam’s time in Shanghai spells the beginning of some very mysterious goings-on. This part too is convincingly conveyed – without being over the top or stretching our belief in Sam’s story. The part of the novel which details the Japanese invasion is a fascinating and unputdownable one which really brings the setting to life and allowed me to lose myself in its twists and turns whilst remaining wholly connected to Sam and this exotic world that he’s found himself in.
Lulu’s story – is a successful counterpoint to Sam’s narrative that didn’t jar with or distract from his tale. There was a pleasing balance of her past and his present and both characters were so well-drawn that I felt like I wanted to dedicate my attention to the way their stories interconnected, rather than feeling that one overwhelmed the other. The wartime setting was stunningly brought to life and I soon lost myself in the way that the glittering streets, glamorous hostesses and vibrant ex-pat life were decimated by the trauma of war and you will definitely get caught up in the drama alongside this novel’s characters
The atmosphere of turmoil and drama is perfectly maintained throughout this wonderful novel; the setting of pre-war Shanghai was something that I wanted to read more about as soon as I’d finished reading Love and Death in Shanghai. Elizabeth J. Hall manages to make the setting as compelling and ‘present’ as her characters. Even though I was reading it in Scotland, I felt Shanghai come to life as I walked in the footsteps of these characters and experienced their poignant and dramatic stories
Elizabeth J. Hall is a talented new voice. She draws the reader into her characters’ worlds and makes them live for us as we read. These characters’ tales are all the more powerful due to their connections with real-life events. I was happily engrossed in my Shanghai research and got lost in a post-reading, research haze for a whole afternoon after reading it. You’ll definitely love this novel if you like historical fiction that’s well researched and balances its characterisation with a real sense of being transported to a different time and place. I agree with Jill Dawson that it’s totally ‘riveting’
Writer On The Shelf
Elizabeth J.Hall works in politics in the UK. Love and Death in Shanghai, her debut novel was inspired by the life and death of her uncle who worked in the Shanghai Municipal Police in the 1920s and 30s. Elizabeth’s first memory is of her mother crying when she received a telegram reporting his assassination.
Elizabeth lives in East Sussex with her husband. After a degree in French, she trained as a teacher with a particular interest in social and health education. She worked in the USA, West Africa and London before becoming a consultant, developing programmes of health education abroad, including Central Asia and Russia.
Huge thanks as ever to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the invitation to participate in this Blog Tour – I loved being transported to exotic climes and immersing myself in Sam’s world whilst I read this book.
Love and Death in Shanghai can be bought from here.
Elizabeth J. Hall website: http://www.elizabethjhall.com/