Book Review – The Last Rose of Shanghai

What a beautiful love story !!! The Last Rose of Shanghai shows a very different slice of the city of Shanghai. The novel is set in the times of WWII and the Japanese occupation of Shanghai.

Summary – The Last Rose of Shanghai

The story starts with a flashback. Aiyi is now wheelchair bound and has invited a documentary maker to help her in making a documentary. Aiyi makes an outlandish offer of gifting the very hotel they meet in should the documentary be to her satisfaction. Right at the end the reader realises why that offer was made.

It’s 1940 and the Japanese have occupied China. The Japanese occupation of China was quite brutal. Under these circumstances Aiyi Shao, a young heiress (just 19) owns and runs a glam­orous Shang­hai night­club. During one of her meetings with a hotel owner Sasoon, she is heckled by some of the people in the hotel and Ernest Reismann helps her.

There are sparks that fly in the very first meeting !

Ernest Reis­mann is a pen­ni­less Jew­ish refugee who lands in Shanghai with his only surviving sister to escape Hitler’s “pogorm”. When Aiyi hears Ernest play the piano she ends up hiring him to play at her nightclub. Ernest is an instant success and soon Aiyi’s nightclub becomes the talk of the town.

In hiring Ernest Aiyi flouts several social norms and is chided by her family, particularly her elder brother and her fiancee. She defies them all. Ernest and Aiyi fall in love and then their lives simply unravel.

Pregnant with Ernest’s child, Aiyi loses everything as the Japanese take over her nightclub. Ernest goes through his own set of challenges and personal loss when his only surviving sister is shot dead. Aiyi marries her fiancee (who is her cousin) under desperate circumstances, but he too dies defending her within a month of their marriage.

The ups and downs that Ernest and Aiyi go through is quite dramatic. Am sure some real life people also have been through similar situations during wars. After several trials and tribulations including stealing of a tank, Aiyi and Ernest marry each other. You realise that almost at the end of the book as Aiyi shares that with the documentary maker.

A note to the author – while the description of a Sikh policeman is accurate, no Sikh will be ever named as Jyotiraditya Mirchandani. Anyone with Mirchandani for a last name is a Sindhi Hindu.

My recommendation – 5/5. Do read the book. It’s beautifully written and for history buffs its an added thrill as you get a glimpse into everyday life in China during the Japanese occupation.

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