This historical novel begins in Berlin in November 1938 and then continues in Shanghai during the dramatic times of World War II. After the Nazis carry out the Kristallnacht (Night of Crystal) attacks on the Jews of Germany, 17-year-old Erica and her 15-year-older brother Theo have to flee their home and sail alone to Shanghai, the only place where Jewish refugees could find shelter. They leave behind their mother and grandmother, who hope to join them later on. The two reach the Hongkew slum, populated by poor Chinese and penniless refugees, and share an apartment with Gustav and Charlotte, a Jewish couple from Holland who have left their two daughters behind with relatives.
Shanghai in those days was a lively, bustling city full of contrasts. The “international colony,” is where European and American expats live, as well as better-off and well-connected refugees. One of the latter is Max, a handsome young German Jew, and a romance blooms between him and Erica.
Uziel catches the atmosphere of the time and the place superbly, weaving the great events of the period into the plot. She takes her characters through their loves and disappointments, depicting moments of terror, hardships, the constant anxiety for relatives still in Europe, as well as displays of courage and true friendship. At the end of the war, after Erica and Theo learn that their mother and grandmother have not survived, they and Max decide to leave Shanghai, and to build their future in what was then still Palestine.
English translation available (for publishers only)