Friday, October 9, 2015

REVIEW: The Far Side of the Sky by Daniel Kalla

The Far Side of the Sky
by Daniel Kalla

Publisher: Forge Books
Page Count: 528
Release Date: July 30, 2013
Format: Mass Market Paperback

How got: bought @ local BX

First attention getter: description on back

Synopsis:

From GoodReads:

Weaving together intrigue, medical drama, and romance, The Far Side of the Sky by Daniel Kalla,brings to life an extraordinary and little-known chapter of the Second World War. Stirring and fast-paced, the novel is a sweeping account of a world in tumult and a moving saga about courage in the darkest of times.

November 9, 1938-Kristallnacht. The Nazis unleash a night of terror upon German and Austrian Jews. Franz Adler, a widowed Jewish surgeon, experiences firsthand the wave of violence sweeping Vienna when his beloved younger brother is lynched. Desperate to find sanctuary for his young daughter, Franz hears whispers of Jews fleeing to distant Shanghai in the Far East.

After a harrowing escape from Europe, the Adlers land in Shanghai to find it besieged by the rampaging Japanese army. But the cosmopolitan city-the "Paris of the East"-still represents the last haven for thousands of Jews fleeing the Third Reich.

Franz meets Soon Yi "Sunny" Mah at the refugee hospital where they both volunteer. Half-Chinese and half-American, the compassionate and headstrong young nurse is an outcast in her own culture. Recognizing her ability, Franz agrees to mentor Sunny in surgery.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, tensions soar. With Japanese soldiers lurking on every corner, the threat of starvation, disease, and internment hangs over the Adlers. So does the menace from the Nazis who refuse to let go of the Jewish "escapees." Franz is torn between ensuring his family's security and following his heart.

My Thoughts:

Star Rating - 4

This book was a very pleasant surprise. I loved the careful attention to detail the author had, the great research, and the engrossing story. It’s a very promising start to this trilogy.

The story of the Shanghai ghetto is not a commonly explored area of historical fiction. The author explored its early years and formation through the story of Franz Adler and his family as they escaped Nazi controlled Austria and a local Euroasian (half Chinese-half American) woman caught in the fires of war. The book has great atmospheric details; I could feel the heat of a muggy, Chinese summer and hear the calls of street vendors in the many languages of Shanghai. I liked how the author paid attention to his setting as much as his story.

And what a story! From the very beginning with the author opening up with Kristallnacht and Adler family tragedy, the reader is kept engaged throughout the entire work with alternate scenes of harrowing escape, learning to live in a new place, dealing with the many tragedies of war, and growing connections as families are formed. There wasn’t one moment when I was bored or felt like skipping a paragraph.

I loved the characters, for the most part. There were moments where Franz and Sunny read as too perfect or lucky. Yet, for the most part, they were very human and engaging. I enjoyed their journeys and coming together in a relationship.

Yet, for me, the real characterization stars were the secondary ones. I loved Kubota and Tanaka. They humanized the Japanese in fantastic ways. They showed that while they were brutal, there were shines of empathy and mercy there. They also were their own people when it came to giving up the Jews of Shanghai to the Germans or not. They wouldn’t be dictated to by anyone, even allies.

This was a worthy opening to the trilogy. It set the stage of war-torn Shanghai and the various parties that play a part in its story very well. I’m engaged enough in the characters that when I get around to finding and reading book two, it’ll be done eagerly. Highly recommended for historical fiction lovers of the WWII genre.

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