What’s it all about?:
A young man’s search for love in Shanghai, set during a time of gang warfare, drug running, prostitution and Japanese invasions.
“This is a riveting account of a compelling and erotic story.” Jill Dawson, author of The Great Lover
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.
What did I think?:
First of all, a huge thank you to Anne Cater for emailing me and inviting me to take part in this blog tour and for kindly sending me a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review. I have to say the synopsis of this novel had me instantly intrigued to read it. I’m always a huge fan of a story set in another country, especially China which I have a particular soft spot for. Then if you throw in a historical setting, a character struggling with the instability of the country and the Japanese invasion of the 1930’s, it’s pretty much a sure thing that I’m going to want to read it! Generally, this novel was a sumptuous fictional imagining of characters and events that occurred within the author’s own family and this only served to make it a more authentic and fascinating read. It was beautifully descriptive and so detailed that I could almost imagine I walked the same streets as our lead character and those he comes into contact with.
Elizabeth J. Hall, author of Love And Death In Shanghai.
Lancashire born and bred Sam Shuttleworth escapes to Shanghai with a sense of adventure and to try and live and work in a culture so incredibly different from his own. He lands a job as a police officer in Shanghai and is tasked with keeping peace in the very fractured city between a number of different gangs, communist and nationalist uprisings, petty arguments that become violent, murderous acts due to the general instability and uncertainty of the country and the eventual Japanese invasion that changes everything irrevocably for the inhabitants of Shanghai. He has a number of affairs as a single young man then meets a few individual women that each alter his outlook on life forever, in very different ways. He finally begins to learn that work and having a good time outside of work means nothing if you don’t have the support of a loving family behind you.
Love And Death In Shanghai is a perfect title for this novel. It does exactly what it says on the tin. There are erotic, even more graphic moments which I wasn’t quite expecting, but luckily, they don’t overwhelm the reader and the narrative is much more focused on the dark side of Shanghai and how our male lead has to cope with the horrifying and shocking things that he has to see every day, things that most inhabitants take in their stride. Some of it did make for difficult reading but I’m so pleased the author had the courage to go there and show us the real, very brutal Shanghai in the 1920′-30’s. I was also fascinated to read about the stark contrast between these poorer, crime-led areas and the rich side of Shanghai where food, drink and entertainment was in abundant supply for those who could afford it, of course.
1930’s Shanghai, where part of our story is set.
I found the characterisation of this book extremely intriguing and I’m not sure if other readers would have the same or different opinions to mine. Let me explain what I mean – I didn’t find there were many likeable characters in this novel. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I love an unreliable character, a person with flaws, an intensely horrible one that you can have strong hateful feelings towards….all these things are great. However, I didn’t know how to feel about our male lead, Sam. At times I loved his bravery and nobility, in fact my favourite moments of his is when he was back in England for a visit seeing his family where I felt the real “Sam” came out. It was just all the affairs though. Fair enough when he was a single man of course, he has no responsibilities or attachments, but then he meets Lulu, discovers what responsibility really means and er…..doesn’t really change!
As I’m working this all out in my head as I’m writing, I’m considering the fact that perhaps Sam just hasn’t met the “one” in Lulu, they certainly seemed to have quite a volatile relationship and although I can’t really excuse his behaviour, there is an opportunity for them to have mutual contentment by the end. I don’t want to go too much into the ending for fear of spoilers, I felt it quite bitter-sweet but entirely accurate and I have to be honest, I definitely wasn’t expecting it. Elizabeth J. Hall writes a comprehensive and exquisite tale of a country in turmoil, I loved the attention to detail and appreciated the vast research that must have been completed to tell a compelling story.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
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.
Find Elizabeth on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17679768.Elizabeth_J_Hall
Elizabeth’s website is http://www.elizabethjhall.com/
Thank you once again to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. Love And Death In Shanghai was published on the 18th January 2018 and is available as a paperback and an e-book. If you fancy some more information don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on this blog tour for some amazing reviews!
Link to Love And Death In Shanghai on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38352086-love-and-death-in-shanghai