BOOK CLUB: The Shanghai Wife

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Author: Emma Harcourt
ISBN: 978489249142
RRP: $29.99
Publication Date: 18 June 2018
Publisher: HQ Fiction
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher

The Shanghai Wife is the debut historical novel of Emma Harcourt who says in the Author’s Note prefacing the novel that this is fiction inspired by her grandmother’s story.

Set in Shanghai, 1925, we are transported to a time and place far from anything any of us could comprehend today.

Annie Brand leaves country Australia for Shanghai with her new husband where they journey up the Yangtze and it’s all a great adventure until her husband sends Annie back to Shanghai, putting a rather large hole in her freedom.

Annie finds herself in the International Settlement, living alone and suffocated by the exclusive social scene. She is drawn into the completely different world that is the real Shanghai, seeing the world from the perspective of the local people, including the servants working at her husband’s Club.

Annie is curious and new to this world, she doesn’t understand the dangers and the complexities at play, she finds herself caught up in intrigue, conspiracy and passion that she was not prepared for nor could she see the far-reaching consequences.

This book is beautifully presented, flowers to begin each chapter and a glorious cover; a premise that intrigues me and a promise of exotic and lyrical prose.

The Shanghai Wife is one that is on my pile this month and I look forward to reading soon but wanted to make sure our members can start getting reviews up in a timely manner.

Emma Harcourt can be found on Facebook and her Website.

The Shanghai Wife is published by HQ Fiction and available now from Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia and where all good books are sold.

Thanks to HQ Fiction 20 of our Beauty and Lace Club Members will be reading The Shanghai Wife so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments below.

20 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: The Shanghai Wife

  1. Turn back the clock to a time where there was social etiquette that was to be followed. Annie had left Australia for a better life, falling in love with a boatman and moving to Shanghai. This is in the time where there was a large international presence in the city with designated international area.
    Their life together starts out on a journey up the Yangtse river, on his boat but when the threat of pirates get too great, her husband sends Annie back to Shanghai to wait for his return and join in the social events held there.
    Annie isn’t quite as well groomed or in the belief that she is of a better people than the Chinese like some, most, in the international district & club. She tries to fit in but would prefer to find the real Shanghai, understand exactly what is going on in the city surrounding her, not just the news that is published and adjusted to suit the course of the international governing authorities. Little does she realise that her passions and interests and the want to help the unfortunate Chinese that are swept into the gang culture will lead to such changes in her life.

    Its got it all, romance, politics, mystery, controversy, forbidden love and death. A great read, travel back to Shanghai in the 1920s and enjoy! Thanks for giving the opportunity

  2. Emma Harcourt’s The Shanghai Wife is set in of course…Shanghai. Its the 1920’s and Australian Born Annie is with her husband in Shanghai. Her husband is often away from home for work which leaves Annie to explore and learn about this new culture all on her own. She struggles often with the prejudice of the rich white people and the way they treat the locals as second class citizens. She refuses to stoop to those levels and treats all the locals as equals. This earns her a certain respect from the locals and slowly she gets to know some of them and become what she classes as friends much to the disdain of many of the other wives. Annie wants to learn more about the locals and forms a friendship with a local named Chow. Chow takes her and a friend of hers to parts of Shanghai that she otherwise would not have seen. Over time she finds that life for the locals is much more complicated then she could have expected and sometimes her attempts to help can lead to disaster.
    There is heartache and romance a plenty. This is a great book and also offers the opportunity to learn a little about the city of Shanghai during the 1920’s and the political climate of the time.
    I really enjoyed this story of Annie’s life and would love to think that perhaps in time there will be a second book.

  3. The Shanghai Wife by Emma Harcourt is set in Shanghai in the 1920’s.

    Annie Brand is Australian and wants to leave behind her loneliness and unhappy life of country Australia so makes the decision to catch a ship which is bound for Shanghai. She meets her husband to be and they marry, but he is away for work for long periods as a ship’s captain working on the Yangtze. He takes Annie on an adventure on the ship but as they travel further up the Yangtze her husband fears the pirates that they may find and thus sends Annie back to Shanghai, which she is not happy about, and her freedom comes to an abrupt halt. She then must fit into the life of a supposed lady and join in with the Club ladies, and the social scene. Annie does not really enjoy this type of lifestyle as many of these Club ladies treat the locals as second class citizens. Annie does not want to treat the locals any differently as she believes they are all equals. This earns her respect from the locals, and she also wants to learn more about their way of life. She meets and befriends a local named Chow. Chow takes Annie and a friend of Annie’s to parts of Shanghai that you would not normally go to. She finds that life for the locals is not easy and learns that she needs to be careful what and how she tries to help them, sometimes with dire circumstances.

    Unfortunately, Annie’s husband dies, and her whole life is torn apart. Chow becomes a closer friend, but Annie does not know or understand what lies ahead for her. This is a world of intrigue and conspiracy. Annie goes through much heartache and romance and eventually leaves Shanghai once again to find herself.

    The Shanghai Wife is a great read and opened my eyes to some history of the political happenings and way of life in Shanghai in the 1920’s and it was interesting to note that it was inspired by the author’s grandmother’s story.

  4. Sorry I didn’t post earlier I realized I wrote the review but forgot to post it!!! How silly of me!

    The book is set in Shanghai during the 1920’s… I know who would have thought Shanghai with that title lol

    It follows Annie how leaves Australia behind to follow her husband and his work on the Yangtze, when her husband dies everything she thought she knew is turned on its head and she is left in a strange country trying to pick up the pieces

    It was interesting to read about the political happenings in Shanghai during that period. Ive read another book that touched on political issues across China particularly Shanghai in the early 1900’s but I found this book to throw more light on what was actually happening.

    This book has everything you need! Romance, politics, grief and a touch of mystery. I loved it!

  5. This book will fly off the shelf with its beautiful cover and gold spine, however overall it left me wanting more. More of the story between Annie and the captain, more about Natalia, more about the final dramatic twist and more history around early 20th century Shanghai and the British Imperialists that dominated so much of the world at the time. I would read this author again but would hope for a more detailed read to fully engross me in the story and to take me back to this fascinating era.

  6. Firstly can we talk about the cover art… Just stunning. It would absolutely grab my attention if I saw it in a bookshop.

    Now the important bit, the Story. A really interesting book about Annie, an Australian living in Asian in the 1920s. She finds herself completely out of her depth and wrapt up in things she just does not understand. I found the story fascinating and the descriptive text made me yearn to get on a plane and visit again. I enjoyed the twists in the tale and at times I thought i could predict what would happen and other times I was completely shocked.

    I really enjoyed this book and look forward to the next book by Emma Harcourt.

  7. At the commencement of The Shanghai Wife, we join Annie and her husband Captain Alec Brand aboard a working river boat sailing the Yangtse River in China. Annie is very comfortable in the presence of her husband, but for her own safety is sent back to Shanghai to life in the International Settlement and await his return. Annie is not one to easily conform to the restrictive lifestyle and conformist views of the ladies of the International Settlements’ exclusive social scene, and it is not long before she bucks trends and befriends the hired help; Chinese folk who are employed to serve the Europeans, those who are apparently of higher social standing. Friendships form and Annie is eager to experience Shanghai as the locals see it. This introduces her to a world of wonder but also brings with it danger and devastation.

    I found the final storyline to be quite upsetting and a surprising twist as I couldn’t understand the thoughts of Annie and the decisions she had made. However, I was particularly taken with the detailed events the author was able to portray. The descriptions of persons, places and emotions enabled me to clearly imagine what the character Annie was going through. I was interested to learn that the story in this book is inspired by the story of the authors grandmother, I can only imagine what an interesting and life she led.

    Thank you to Emma Harcourt for writing this lovely book, and to HQ Fiction and Beauty and Lace Book Club for the opportunity to read this very interesting story.

  8. Annie flees from her lonely past in Australia to China with her husband Alec. Annie enjoys life on the river with her ship captain husband, but is sent back to the safety of the International Settlement in Shanghai. She finds the settlement stifling and oppressive, and befriends the local Chinese servants and explores the real Shanghai. However, Shanghai in the 1920’s, while under white Imperialist rule, is a dangerous place with simmering political tensions. The death of her husband, a forbidden love affair and a surprising plot twist had me enthralled until the end.

    The cover art of this book is beautiful, and I liked the continuation of this within the book on the chapter pages. The writing is descriptive and conveys the characters, scenery and emotions within the book so well. I don’t know much about China in the 1920’s, so it was interesting to learn about it with the storyline set around historical events from that time through the perspective of a young and intrepid Australian woman. I loved that the story is inspired by Emma Harcourt’s grandmother’s experiences of living in China.

    Thank you for allowing me to read and review Emma’s debut novel, I highly recommend it!

  9. The Shanghai Wife by Emma Harcourt and published by Harlequin Books, begins with its naive and innocent protagonist Annie, setting off on the adventure of her life.

    Far away from all that is familiar, Annie has fled her father’s farm in country NSW for a new life in the exotic, politically tense world of Shanghai, China in the 1920’s.

    Annie is from the start full of curiosity and rushes into situations without fully understanding the implications. The saying “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread” comes to mind on more than one occasion! Still Annie is a warm character who tries to be sympathetic to her Chinese host country… Her run ins with the suffocating formality of the gossipy and culturally condescending ladies at the exclusive Shanghai Maritime Club, fuel her appetite to experience the ‘real’ China.

    However Annie soon finds that while Shanghai is a thriving and exciting port city, it is full of tension with the animosity between wealthy foreigners and the starving Chinese often breaking out into armed fights and thuggery. Naive Annie unwittingly soon becomes mixed up in Shanghai’s very complicated and dangerous underworld of gangs, opium dens and communist threats.

    The storyline in The Shanghai Wife is fairly simple with some quite ‘staged’ outcomes but Annie herself is quite endearing and there are enough small twists to keep you reading. On the whole an enjoyable book.

  10. Thank you for selecting me to read the Shanghai Wife by Emma Harcourt, the cover is amazing,
    Annie Brand has left Australia and travels to China where her husband is a captain that travels the Yangtze River, the river is a dangerous place so her husband Alec sends her to the International Settlement in Shanghai where she waits for him, ( no spoilers )
    Annie really doesn’t fit in at the settlement and does not like the attitudes towards the local people from the others who live in the settlement,
    Annie does form a friendship with Chow who shows her another side to Shanghai which can be a dangerous mysterious place
    This is a wonderful story that will take readers to another time / place
    I throughly enjoyed reading this book

  11. The Shanghai Wife is a beautiful book based on the character of “Annie”. This book takes us through her turmoil life set back in 1925 in Shanghai.
    There is desperation, love, loss and dispear throughout this book.
    This poor character encounters many horrible events which no one could possible cope with during a lifetime. It’s bad luck pretty much from the first page to the devastating end.
    I felt so sorry for Annie.

    I wonderful book Emma Harcourt, congratulations !

  12. It’s like a snap shot into a time and a place you could only imagine. Annie wish to escape and she did. Shanghai in the 1920’s, wow what a different place. A journey into history. I thought to book was good at capturing your interest to keep reading.

  13. The Shanghai Wife is the debut novel from Emma Harcourt and is set in China in the 1920s, a time of great unrest as the people started to find their voice and stand up against the Imperialists and were also influenced by the Communists who had recently escaped from Russia.
    The main character is Annie Brand, who has fled from Australia and family tragedy. She meets and marries a man who is Captain of a ship which journeys up the Yangtze. Annie is sent back to Shanghai due to threat of pirates and struggles with being part of the Ladies club and living in the International Settlement with little contact with locals. She is keen to learn more about the “real” Shanghai and its peoples.

    This leads her to make some naïve mistakes which cause tragedy and set her down a dangerous path. The novel takes us deep into a murderous, gangland side of Shanghai and at times her life is in danger, sadly she continues to make mistakes and gets sucked further in. At times I felt the story was a little predictable but Annie meets some fascinating characters that I would like to have learnt more about – like Ilma Pitt who despite first appearances is a bit of a rebel but it seems a more sensible and worldly wise one than Annie.
    Despite the predictability of the novel I did enjoy it but at times I was frustrated with Annie’s continuing to take crazy risks, you would have thought after the first couple of tragedies she would have learned her lesson.
    The cover of the book is beautiful, and reflects the importance to Annie of trees and flowers and how they affect her mood.
    Many thanks to Beauty and Lace Book Club and Harlequin Books for the opportunity to read this novel.

  14. What can i say that hasn’t already been said.

    Although this book seemed to take an eternity to arrive it was well worth the wait. if not for the beautiful art work on the cover.

    At times yes the story line was predictable, and at times i was almost yelling into the pages to Annie….STOP DON’T

    all in all a great read and will be interested in finding more titles by the same author

  15. Loved the cover and loved the book.

    It’s a beautiful piece of well written prose, descriptive and captivating.

    Definitely worth the wait.

  16. Shanghai Wife 4/5 A great periodic read with all the thrills and spills of Shanghai in the 20s. Many thanks to Beauty and Lace and Harlequin for the chance to read this one. I am interested in China and found the story to give a real sense of place from the time, a very different China to now. The sense of history and ubiquitous tea is very well conveyed, brought through with the naive Annie at the start. Annie has escaped the dull predictable life for a rapid marriage to a English man, who is sails goods up the local river. The quick decision and thrill of the change is clear, and then the dream starts to unravel. The time is one of social unrest particularly against the British, and most expats live in a protected, sheltered life, trying to recreate England far from home and ignore what is happening. The club ladies in particular have no time for political concerns or trouble. As time goes on Annie meets and befriends locals and some English who do embrace the wonders of Shanghai, but finds she is putting herself in a position estranged from the English, but also quite separeate from the mysteries and the Chinese. Gangs each with symbols and codes are abundant in Shanghai but the English ladies do not want to know. Annie is different and so here experience is very different and potentially dangerous… (no spoilers). The book really brings the young girl away from home alive, who quickly discovers there is so much she does not know. The story is full of hooks and interesting scenes, and is itself a lovely book with the blossom illustrations and stylish cover. A very pleasant surprise to read and enjoy and recommended.

  17. My review of “The Shanghai Wife” is late and therefore not much is left for me to say. This is Emma Harcourt’s debut novel. She has written a well crafted fascinating story. Like Emma, the main character, Annie is from Australia.
    Annie is unhappy at home and takes the unusual decision, for that time, 1920’s to leave Australia. She travels alone by ship and meets her future husband.
    He is a ships Captain and they travel the Yangtze. Annie loves the life but because of the threat of pirates, he husband insists she return to their home in Shanghai.
    The International Settlement there is very British. As the Colonisers they consider themselves better than the rest of the world and generally look down on the Chinese, treating them as servants.
    Annie is uncomfortable with this and wants to become friends with the locals and learn of their culture. However she is naïve and has no knowledge of the power of the Chinese underworld. The gangs were fighting against Imperialism and wanted to spread Communism.
    Annies husband is killed and she forms a liaison with a local waiter at the club. He is called “Chow” This is one of the many small ways the author shows the arrogance of the British. They called any Asian A ‘Chow’. Annie was surprised to realise this was not his real name and had difficulties calling him anything other than Chow..
    Annie’s narrow experience caused her to act without realising the consequences. This resulted in people dying.
    I enjoyed reading this book. I think the author drew a wonderful picture of life on the river boat and of International society in Shanghai at the time.

  18. I really enjoyed this book. Shanghai in 1920 ! Oh the British how they love to look down their nose at the people who’s country they are residing in! And the innocence of a young woman wanting to get out and learn about the people and culture, but not understanding there is always a dark side.
    Fantastic book I really enjoyed reading xxx

  19. I’m not really sure what genre The Shanghai Wife is going for, or if Emma Harcourt took so long to write it that she herself forgot. It’s generally a nice read and interesting. But it starts as an interesting historical novel set in Shanghai and goes downhill from there to a crime novel also in Shanghai, to a family drama set in Australia. It’s a pity because I did enjoy it. I would have enjoyed it more if it was split over three books.

  20. I found this to be an interesting book as I hadn’t read a lot about the location and era before.

    And in my usual style I found myself wanting to yell at characters especially in cases of racism and sexism.

    Like some of the other reviewers I did struggle with some of Annie’s decisions and thought processes.

    I would give Emma Harcourt another chance and will watch out for more titles.

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