In their joint memoir, REMEMBERING SHANGHAI: A Memoir of Socialites, Scholars and Scoundrels, authors Isabel Sun Chao and her daughter Claire delve into the Sun family’s thrilling past, reaching back to their lowly roots and tracing their ascension to wealth and prominence before the fall of Imperial China.
It all began with Isabel’s great-grandfather, a servant boy who became a successful businessman, no small feat in a society with little upward social mobility. His fabulous wealth gave rise to scandal and devastating betrayal but also enabled successive generations to lead affluent lives. Though the Sun family’s landholdings and fortune was much diminished by the time of Isabel’s birth in 1931, she still enjoyed an upper-class upbringing, shielded from the growing unrest beyond the gates of her family’s home. This book is the story of her life and adventures in exotic Shanghai and beyond.
Isabel recounts the privileged childhood she enjoyed with her siblings in a household that — even with the conflicts between their kind but philandering father and social butterfly mother — was an oasis in uncertain times. Readers are led from opium dens and pleasure palaces, concubines and communist chaos, to the streets of Hong Kong, while they follow not just the Sun’s family’s story, but the story of Shanghai itself, as it suffers massive upheaval. The violent social revolution of the Maoists forever changed the social and political landscape of China, and it very nearly destroyed the Sun family, who found themselves targets of a bloodthirsty regime bent on destroying the old way of life once and for all.
Exquisitely written and beautifully illustrated, REMEMBERING SHANGHAI is a masterpiece of storytelling and research. The pages are filled lovely and colorful drawings, executed by Ming-Fai Hui and Sun Qian, and haunting photographs of Isabel’s family and friends. Together with the excellent prose of both authors, they bring the stories and the city of Shanghai, past and present, vividly to life.
REMEMBERING SHANGHAI: A Memoir of Socialites, Scholars and Scoundrels is the fascinating tale of a long gone way of life, as well as an emotional and historical journey.
~Heather Stockard, for IndieReader