Historical Fiction War

The Lives Before Us – Juliet Conlin (Beata)

12 April 2019
Lives Before Us Book Cover Lives Before Us
Juliet Conlin
Black and White Publishing
March 28, 2019

A beautifully written, sweeping story of survival, community and love ...

It is April 1939, and, in Berlin and Vienna, Esther and Kitty face a brutal choice. Flee Europe, or face the ghetto, incarceration, death.

Shanghai … They’ve heard it whispered that Shanghai might offer refuge. And so, on a crowded ocean liner, these women encounter each other for the first time.

The Lives Before Us is an interesting novel describing the fate of the Jewish immigrants who were lucky to leave Germany and Austria before WW2 began. The immigration, as it turned out, saved their lives. The destination place was Shanghai, one of the few places then that accepted Jews and where the immigrants lived or rather survived in most dramatic circumstances.

Two female characters, Kitty and Esther, have different background and stories that they take when they embark the ship. I liked the way the author unveils gradually both women’s past as it makes the novel intriguing. In Shanghai, they face difficulties, poverty, fear, loneliness but somehow find the stamina to survive. They are complete opposites, moreover, Esther has a little daughter to take care of. Kitty’s and Esther’s paths cross that of a poor Chinese boy’s called Yi. Introducing Yi allows the Author to describe daily lives of average Chinese under the Japanese occupation of which I had only a vague idea.

There is so much to learn from this novel about the immigrants whose fate took them so far away from their homeland, forcing them to leave the nearest and dearest for the price of survival. Many books have this theme but the setting for this novel was a total novelty for me and the panorama of the immigrant community in the Chinese port is interestingly presented. I especially enjoyed vivid descriptions of Shanghai and I actually could hear the noise and smells of it. The Lives Before Us is a solid historical fiction that I recommend to the fans of this particular genre.

Reading this novel was a double pleasure as it was my first ever Buddy Read with my Great Friend Peter, whose thoughts added wonderfully to my reading experience.

Many thanks to Juliet Conlin, Black & White Publishing and NetGalley for providing me with ARC in exchange for my honest review.*

Peter Donnelly

Founder of The Reading Desk, supporting readers, authors, publishers and book industry. Top Reviewer on Amazon, Goodreads, and NetGalley peter@thereadingdesk.com

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