I received a free copy of this book through Goodreads' First Reads in exchange for an honest review.
On the whole, I really enjoyed this novel. I will admit that it took me quite a while to get into. Throughout the beginning, none of the storylines really interested me and I was really lost throughout most of the narration. During this time, I felt the narration was jumpy; it would follow one character then jump to the next without much transition. Likewise, the timeline felt jumpy as the descriptions skipped from present to past and back. So to begin with I throughout it was really slow and just could not get into it.
However, about halfway through, I felt myself actually enjoying it and able to follow the characters. There are a lot of stories within the text, which can be confusing at times, but overall makes a very dynamic and interesting read. Mones provides a very in-depth look at life in Shanghai during the last 1930s and early 1940s. I loved all of the details regarding Chinese culture, language, and nightlife as well as the descriptions of American jazz in Shanghai.
I also really enjoyed the various notes of racial and ethnic discrimination (against African-Americans, Jews, Chinese, Japanese, etc.). Each character was so complex as they tried to navigate their ever-changing world. Song's character was marvelous on so many levels that she basically stole the story away from the other characters. If you need a reason to read this book, read it for Song's character and stay for everyone else's. Would definitely recommend this book; it was an excellent read once it got going.