A sprawling, overstated survivor tale about a predictably varied group of Jewish refugees--coping with poverty,...



A sprawling, overstated survivor tale about a predictably varied group of Jewish refugees--coping with poverty, displacement, danger, and despair in WW II Shanghai. Among the refugees: Rebecca Langer-Wolf, mother of young Esther and wife of Meyer, whose vitality is snuffed out by Nazi persecution; handsome young idealist David Buchbinder, whose father died in a concentration camp and whose mother, back in Breslau, is doomed; David's tough, gamey Uncle Moritz; flossy Ada Hurwitz, who spins tall tales about glamorous acquaintances; intelligent, sexy Miriam Schiff and dour husband Joseph; brilliant humanitarian physician Dr. Walter Pincus; irrepressible opportunist ""Natzie"" Stern; plus a professor, a gentle homosexual, and a clutch of Americans. At first, most of the group manage well enough. Rebecca's typewriter repair-shop flourishes; Moritz officiates at Cafe Moritz II; David finds a newspaper job. But, under the Japanese occupation, all ""stateless refugees"" are confined to 40 square blocks in a ""slummy native quarter"" while the English and Americans are interned. So indefatigable Moritz acquires a wobbly two-story house, where the refugee-tenants grudgingly, angrily, resignedly make do, having lost their businesses and their freedom: Rebecca begins smuggling for partner-and-possible-lover Hugo; David produces a ""ghetto"" news sheet and dreams of Rosalie, daughter of a US film impresario, who sneaks messages to him; Miriam will pay her way as a prostitute (husband Joseph commits suicide); the professor mumbles, working on his history of the Jews in China. They hear the war news, outwit (in small ways) the occupying Japanese, scoff at the impotence of those who prate of helping them, and despise the Polish Jews who won't help to feed the down-and-out. And finally, though David is jailed for a few terrible days, he lives to embrace an escaped Rosalie, while Rebecca and Dr. Pincus are at the threshold of love. . . only to find tragedy at the real end of the war. Though based on survivor interviews and fitted out with some convincing specifics: a TV-movie-level docudrama, heavy on stereotypes and short on genuine drama.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 1983


Page Count: -

Publisher: Dembner--dist. by Norton

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1983

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