Shanghai Grand by Taras Grescoe
Finalist for The Mavis Gallant Prize for Non-Fiction in 2016
From award-winning and bestselling author Taras Grescoe comes a highly compelling new bestselling book about the twilight of Shanghai before the Second World War
On the eve of the Second World War, the foreign-controlled port of Shanghai was the rendezvous for the 20th century’s most outlandish adventurers, all under the watchful eye of the fabulously wealthy Sir Victor Sassoon. Emily Hahn was a legendary New Yorker writer who would cover China for nearly fifty years, and play an integral part in opening Asia up to the West. But at the height of the Depression, “Mickey” Hahn had just arrived in Shanghai nursing a broken heart after a disappointing affair with an alcoholic Hollywood screenwriter, convinced she would never love again. After entering Sassoon’s glamorous Cathay Hotel, Hahn is absorbed into the social swirl of the expats drawn to pre-war China, among them Ernest Hemingway, Martha Gellhorn, Harold Acton and the colourful gangster named Morris “Two-Gun” Cohen, who had once lived in Saskatoon and Edmonton and later retired to Montreal. When she meets Zau Sinmay, a Chinese poet from an illustrious family, she discovers the real Shanghai through his eyes: the city of rich colonials, triple agents, opium-smokers, displaced Chinese peasants and increasingly desperate White Russian and Jewish refugees – a place her innate curiosity will lead her to discover first-hand. But danger lurks on the horizon and Mickey barely makes it out alive as the brutal Japanese occupation destroys the seductive world of pre-war Shanghai and Mao Tse-tung’s Communists come to power in China.
Taras Grescoe, with his trademark style and verve, brings this rich history to life in all its beautiful and intimate detail.
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