Shanghai Scarlet

Written by Margaret Blair
Review by Teresa Devine

The world of 1930s Shanghai is vividly brought to life in Margaret Blair’s Shanghai Scarlet, which centers on a young man named Mu Shiying, a rising star in the city’s literary scene who loves the Western trends infusing bars, nightclubs, and literary venues of Shanghai.

In 1934 he meets a remarkable woman named Qiu PeiPei. The two share a love of Western culture, and Blair’s book charts the course of their relationship as it winds its way through the wonderfully portrayed intellectual and social world of a city on the brink of major upheaval. The characters throughout are well drawn, and the book’s strongest element is its depiction of the artistic world Mu Shiying inhabits: the books, the poems, the literary journals, all of it accompanied by a rich array of period dance and music.

This is a very lively look at a fascinating time in Shanghai’s past.