The Jade Lily

Written by Kirsty Manning
Review by Christine Childs

The Jade Lily is a multi-period, inter-generational novel set in the World War Two era and the present day. In her second novel, Australian author Manning draws on her own travel experience to bring to life settings in Vienna, Shanghai, London, Hong Kong and Melbourne, Australia.

The earlier subplot depicts a Jewish family fleeing Hitler’s Europe to find themselves trapped in Japanese-occupied Shanghai. In addition to the descriptions of war-induced cruelty and persecution, it’s also a coming-of-age story about daughter, Romy, as she navigates an increasingly complex and hazardous environment.

In the contemporary subplot, Romy is an elderly woman in Melbourne, nursing her dying husband, Wilhelm. Their granddaughter, Alexandra, a successful stockbroker, arrives from London to share Wilhelm’s last days. Alexandra was raised by Romy and Wilhelm, as her parents died in a car crash when she was a child. Mystery surrounds her mother’s origins, an Asian orphan adopted by Romy and Wilhelm. After Wilhelm’s death, Alexandra goes to Shanghai with new determination to discover her Asian roots. She unveils a web of secrets, tragedy and unexpected outcomes.

Manning expertly transitions between past and present, and back again, without impacting the flow of either story. Both The Jade Lily and Manning’s first novel, The Midsummer Garden, grapple with themes of passion, grief, family and sacrifice. Her photographic, culinary and botanical interests are beautifully woven into both multi-period novels, creating visually evocative and sensual narratives. This second novel is destined to be as popular as the first, as it will appeal to contemporary and historical fiction readers and those who enjoy a genealogical quest.