Select one of the keywords
The Far Side of the Sky    by Daniel Kalla order for
Far Side of the Sky
by Daniel Kalla
Order:  USA  Can
Forge, 2012 (2011)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

On Kristallnacht (November 9, 1938), Dr. Franz Adler (a widower and skilled surgeon with a young daughter, Hannah) answers a desperate call from his sister-in-law Esther. He rushes to her apartment only to find her badly injured and his beloved younger brother Karl (a lawyer) hanging from a lamp post.

Franz desperately seeks a way to get Hannah and Esther to safety. All other options exhausted, they take ship (along with Franz's gay artist friend Ernst) for Shanghai, where they find they have jumped from the frying pan into the fire. The Japanese invaders are treating the local Chinese just as brutally as the Germans did the Jews.

Another story thread follows Eurasian Soon Yi ('Sunny') in Shanghai. Trained by her physician father, Sunny is more skilled than the doctors she works for as a nurse at the Country Hospital. Sunny loves her father and her childhood friend Jia-Li, a high class courtesan addicted to opium. Sunny supplies other drugs to help Jia-Li fight the addiction.

After Sunny encounters Simon Lehrer, a New Yorker helping establish a refugee hospital in Shanghai, she starts to volunteer there. So does Franz after his arrival in the city - his main job is a humiliating one, doing simple procedures for a less skilled surgeon. Feelings develop between Franz and Sunny, and (more slowly, given her mourning) between Simon and Esther. But there are great obstacles ahead for all of them.

Attacks on Chinese escalate in this city that now 'buzzed with Jewish culture', while the Nazis approach the Japanese to 'deal with the German Jews'. And Franz, who feels strongly about 'complicit moderates' who 'empower the fanatics', finds himself reluctantly operating on a Nazi diplomat's wife. Cholera strikes Shanghai. And, on all sides, decent people struggle with their consciences - and often suffer for their decisions.

In his Acknowledgements at the beginning of the novel, the author speaks of 'the dignity, bravery, and sense of compassion among the indigenous Chinese and the transplanted German Jews - two oppressed peoples who lived side by side with remarkable tolerance and mutual respect, in an age of neither.' He tells their 'very real, and yet enturely surreal' story admirably - don't miss The Far Side of the Sky.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Historical books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews