Rising Sun, Falling Shadow
This novel is the sequel to The Far Side of the Sky and is set in Shanghai in 1943. Things are looking bad for the Jews who have taken refuge in Shanghai; the Japanese occupying forces have interned the British and Americans and, urged on by their Nazi allies, have forced the Jews into what is effectively a ghetto. Dr. Franz Adler and his Eurasian wife, Sunny, cope with an escaped internee, the Chinese Resistance, shortages in the hospital they run, and increasing threats from both the Japanese and Germans.
Not having read the initial novel, I felt rather overwhelmed by the multiple plot lines and the large cast of characters at first. Once I had sorted them all out, though, the occasional forays into backstory felt intrusive in a novel that could have stood up well by itself. The Shanghai setting added a new dimension to the sadly familiar story of the Jewish people struggling to survive against terrible odds, and I appreciated how the very nature of Shanghai, a polyglot, cosmopolitan city before the war, lent itself to the introduction of a number of different tensions and opposing interests. Having a large number of characters allowed for a balanced, nuanced portrait of a society where each character acted out of his or her own background and allegiances rather than falling onto one side or another along predictable, nationalistic lines.
A slightly impersonal perspective in Kalla’s writing meant that I was not always fully engaged in the emotions of the situation. But on the whole I found this novel to be an interesting insight into an aspect of World War II and the Jewish experience that is not often found in fiction.