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Shanghai Grand: Forbidden Love and International Intrigue on the Eve of the Second World War

Category: Book
By (author): Grescoe, Taras
  HISTORY / Europe / Western
  HISTORY / General
  HISTORY / Modern / 20th Century
Audience: general/trade
Awards: Mavis Gallant Prize for Non-Fiction
British Columbia National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction
Publisher: HarperCollins
Published: May 2017
Format: Book-paperback
Pages: 352
Size: 8.00in x 5.31in x 0.79in
Our Price:
$ 22.99
Available to order

Additional Notes

From The Publisher*

From award-winning and bestselling author Taras Grescoe comes a highly compelling and bestselling account of the high life in Shanghai just before the Second World War

On the eve of the Second World War, the foreign-controlled port of Shanghai was the rendezvous point for many of the 20th century's most outlandish adventurers, who all congregated 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 50 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.

At Sassoon's glamorous Cathay Hotel, Hahn is absorbed into the social swirl of expats drawn to pre-war China, among them Ernest Hemingway, Martha Gellhorn, Harold Acton and the colourful gangster Morris "Two-Gun" Cohen, who 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 first-hand the real Shanghai: a city of rich colonials, triple agents, opium smokers, displaced Chinese peasants and increasingly desperate White Russian and Jewish refugees. But danger lurks on the horizon and Mickey barely makes it out alive when the brutal Japanese occupation destroys the seductive world of pre-war Shanghai and Mao Tse-tung's Communists come to power.

With his trademark style and verve, Taras Grescoe brings this rich history to life in all its glorious, larger-than-life detail.

Review Quote*"Grescoe does a remarkable job of structuring his material, shifting his gaze across a broad canvas with grace."
Review Quote*"Grescoe uses these sources--and those of the many other writers, journalists, memoirists and diarists of the time--to capture the rollicking spirit of Shanghai on the verge of history, sorting through their biases and feuds to provide richly detailed anecdotes . . . a fascinating record of a lost time."
Review Quote*"A love song to 1930s Shanghai. Taras Grescoe has fallen hard for the ‘the wicked old Paris of the Orient,' its barrooms thick with gangsters and newsmen . . . Shanghai Grand is a headlong swoon for old Shanghai. The feeling is easy to catch."
Review Quote*"Grescoe draws on archival sources rarely touched by other historians, and his treatment of his subjects is balanced and empathetic. . . . Time diminishes even the grandest monuments, and we are fortunate when a talented storyteller takes the trouble to reconstruct them in such meticulous and compelling detail."
Review Quote*"There is a considerable escapist pleasure to be found in [Grescoe's] evocations of the memorable mix of con men, capitalists, revolutionaries, ruffians and romantics encountered by [Mickey] Hahn during her Shanghai sojourn."
Review Quote*"Here's the Mandarin for ooh-la-la! As Taras Grescoe, a respected Canadian writer of nonfiction, shows in this marvellous, microscopically descriptive history . . . Shanghai in the 1930s was internationally notorious as ‘the wicked old Paris of the Orient.'"
Review Quote*"Grescoe's narrative is a keenly observant, sometimes soulful portrait of Emily "Mickey" Hahn, an American writer who lived in Shanghai from 1935 to 1943, and of China's political and social realities during that tumultuous period in its history. . . . This is a wonderful book."
Review Quote*"[A] lively biography of a city and some of its colorful inhabitants. . . . Grescoe exuberantly captures the glamour and intrigue of a lost world."
Review Quote*"The fascinating historical accounts collected from archival records and old correspondence provide a feeling of biography mixed with historical fiction, although the facts are solid. Through this blended approach, Grescoe's work will appeal to readers with a historical sweet tooth."