(Review) Remembering Shanghai: A Memoir of Socialites, Scholars and Scoundrels by Isabel Sun Chao and Claire Chao

Publisher and Publication Date: Plum Brook. 2018.
Genre: Memoir. Historical fiction. Women and literature.
Pages: 308.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: For readers who enjoy a book that’s part memoir and part historical fiction. People who have an interest in Chinese history and culture. Readers of mother and daughter relationships.
Rating: Excellent.

Advertisement from the 1930s. Image courtesy of Unsplash.

Amazon link
The Kindle copy is $1.99 today.

Website for the book: Remembering Shanghai.

This book has won over twenty literary awards.

A thirteen page glossary is included.

Illustrations (both photographs and watercolor) are throughout the book, many of them are in color.

Claire and Isabel (daughter and mother) traveled to Shanghai, China to visit the original family home in 2008. Afterwards, Claire began to write about the four generations of her mother’s family. Included is historical information about the culture and history during each generation. The main part of the book is Isabel’s life.

My Thoughts:
When the mother first saw the family home after an absence of sixty years, I was awestruck at her humility and ability to remain calm despite an awkwardness of how the home now looks. At one time, the family home was beautiful and elegant. A single family dwelled in it. Now, several people live in apartments, inside the home, that have been selected by the government. People look down on others who have wealth. It is looked upon as low quality in character. This is the society and culture of communist China. This is eye-opening to me. People judge before really knowing the people and their individual lives. And, often people judge because it’s what they’ve been taught.
I have a friend who is from South Korea. She made a comment to me that Americans are lazy. Some are and some are not. Further, some Koreans are probably lazy. This is a character trait and not respective of nation. Anyone who calls my husband lazy should work his job for a day. I dare you. He works for a large city on the sewer cleaning equipment. Ha! Yes, it is a crappy job. I’m being sarcastic. Back to the book!
I love women and literature stories. I love mother and daughter stories. I love stories with the setting in China. This book had a triple appeal for me. I ordered it for my birthday in February. I enjoyed reading every page.
Additional reasons why I love this book:
~Beautiful illustrations. I love art. The art included in the book is visually stunning. Definitely aesthetic quality.
~The interesting stories from the great-grandparents generation.
~Education about Chinese writing, name placement, clothing, and religion.
~The Chinese Cultural Revolution and the consequences on Isabel’s siblings and father.

Both the above photographs were taken in Shanghai. Free images courtesy of Unsplash.


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