About The Book
Shanghai 1924. Sam Shuttleworth joins the Municipal Police looking for adventure and to escape his working class roots in Lancashire. Shanghai is a glamorous, fascinating place – with an extremely dangerous criminal underworld. Sam rises through the ranks and marries his glamorous Russian lover Lulu, but the relationship is tumultuous, with infidelities on both sides.
In the 1930s, as Japan invades China and moves into Shanghai with appalling violence, Sam has to negotiate between warring sides, and wonders if he will ever find peace amidst the chaos of his relationships and the bloody events of his career.
Love and Death in Shanghai by Elizabeth J. Hall is a sprawling and epic tale of Shanghai in the years preceding World War 2. It examines the life of Lancashire man, Sam Shuttleworth who, rather than spending his life working in mills, moves to China to become a police officer. Based on the story of the author’s uncle, this book explores China as a melting pot, its political and social tensions and a part of history that I knew very little about.
Sam is a good, decent man from a good family who takes his position in the Municipal Police seriously. The city is filled with wealthy Europeans and Americans who have brought expensive cars, casinos and nightclubs into Shanghai. I was struck by the contrasts between the sheen of glamour given by those with money – large apartments, drivers, expensive clothes and jewellery – against the darkness of the city;
Some upper crust people in Shanghai. You might meet some. Pots of money about, and lots of poor buggers who die in the streets. You’ll certainly meet them. Illness, poverty, murder, the lot.
Elizabeth J. Hall cleverly uses the characters to further examine this point. Sam is able to very easily traverse a number of different worlds; police officer, plaything of a socialite, lover of a hostess at a nightclub and it is through his eyes that we see the full scale of poverty and opulence in Shanghai.
Sam’s relationship with Russian woman Lulu is an excellent examination of life in Shanghai – she is from a family who have fled Russia and have lost not only their money but their social standing too. I really enjoyed learning about their circumstances and found them and their family dynamic incredibly interesting to read. Their poverty is difficult to comprehend and when compared against the life that others are leading close by is upsetting.
At its heart though, this is a love story and Sam is the handsome and charasmatic leading man. He has women falling at his feet and it is through these women that we learn the most about him. There is a wide and varied cast of characters who bring out different parts of Sam, however he is always steadfast in his principles and morals and is reliable and consistent in his treatment of others. I really liked him as a protagonist – he isn’t a goody two shoes by any stretch of the imagination but is a hard worker and does what he thinks is right.
This is never more apparant than when World War 2 is looming and Japan invades China – Sam is really tested and I found this part of the book to be emotional, raw and visceral. It is clear that Elizabeth J. Hall has done her homework, this is a well-researched novel with a wonderful protagonist that explores an interesting time in history.
About The Author
Elizabeth J.Hall works in politics in the UK. Love and Death in Shanghai, her debut novel was inspired by the life and death of her uncle who worked in the Shanghai Municipal Police in the 1920s and 30s. Elizabeth’s first memory is of her mother crying when she received a telegram reporting his assassination.
Elizabeth lives in East Sussex with her husband. After a degree in French, she trained as a teacher with a particular interest in social and health education. She worked in the USA, West Africa and London before becoming a consultant, developing programmes of health education abroad, including Central Asia and Russia.
My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the invitation to join the Blog Tour and for a copy of the book in return for an honest review. Love and Death in Shanghai is available to buy now and can be bought from here.
Elizabeth J. Hall website: http://www.elizabethjhall.com/
Make sure you check out the other stops on the tour, details are beneath!