The Song of the Jade Lily

Written by Kirsty Manning
Review by Hilary Daninhirsch

Flipping back and forth between World War II times and present day, The Song of the Jade Lily is a moving story of an unlikely friendship between two young girls in Shanghai during the World War II era. It is also the story of a girl’s relationship with her grandmother and the devastating effect of family secrets.

As World War II descends upon Europe, Romy and her family find refuge in Shanghai as they wait out the war. On the boat, they meet Nina, who is orphaned and sent to live with an uncle. Romy also becomes friends with their Chinese neighbors, Li and her brother Jian. A series of heartbreaking events serve to tie the friends together for life.

In the meantime, Alexandra is nursing a broken heart and leaves her job in England to visit her grandparents in Australia. Alexandra’s mother’s death left a hole in her heart, and she wanted to get to the bottom of her mother’s adoption story to fill in the gaps in her own identity. Based on some records she finds at her grandmother’s house, she treks to Shanghai to uncover the truth about her family.

The storyline is interesting but at times it drags and gets bogged down in an overwhelming amount of details. It is also frustrating that Alexandra had to go halfway around the world to find the answers to her questions when her grandmother had the answers all along.

The book’s framework is intriguing, as it explores a little-known side of World War II, particularly the Jewish refugee experience in China and Japan’s rule of China, and it’s clear that it was well researched. However, the book itself was not a personal favorite.