A writer whose knowledge of China through the years has dominated her work tells a vivid and at times excruciating story of survival in Shanghai during the worst years of the Japanese occupation in China. Three boys from different parts of the country join forces in their attempt to eke out a living of crafty scavengers until some salvation comes. Yen, a scholar's son from a happy Nanking home, becomes their leader at 15 or 16. Wang was a farmer's son from Foochow and Tu, a porcelain apprentice from Kiukiang, and they all meet after they and their families have fled to the treaty port of Shanghai, the only refuge in an invasion-gutted country. The three are joined by some other boys and become one of Shanghai's many gangs whose sole objective is to find enough food to keep alive. Their plans for doing this and the inter-gang relations that rule the plans are paramount and sharp characterizations form a lasting picture of a hellish existence. But in the background as a distant hope is Yen's friend, a Foochow river captain who owns a junk. When the chance comes for the boys to be taken on the junk to the south where the National Government has been left with the vestiges of China, it seems almost anticlimactic, but a tiny hope for the future is there. Throughout, especially in conversations where the Communist doctrine enters the picture, sympathies are clearly aligned with the Nationalists, whose policies are not so well examined as their enemies'. One wonders at the wisdom of this, but despite the shortcoming, the story alone is holding.