A triple-decker Grand Hotel, which although poorly balanced, is good reading of its kind. Vicki Baum takes a mammoth mouthful, choosing fifteen odd characters to bring together in Shanghai, each reflecting one phase of post-war change. The first part , 300 pages, gives the personal histories of each -- and many may feel that the build-up is topheavy. A Jewish doctor, who loses son and wife in the Nazi onset; Russia is taken care of by Helena, an adventuress sleeping around the continent until marriage to a title and millions; an American nurse and her weakling fiance; the new China versus the old in the marriage of a modern Chinese woman-doctor who loses her husband to a concubine; a thwarted Japanese in secret service; etc. etc. They all meet in Shanghai, port of emigres, hotbed of degeneracy, filth, a city in transition between old and new culture. There is opium, espionage, love of all kinds, father and son, infatuation, etc., and at the close, all are killed in the bombing of the Shanghai Hotel by the Japanese. It reads well, despite the profusion, and has a good chance.