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South China Morning Post

Dec 9, 2017

Fionnuala McHugh


“Absolutely gorgeous—so beautifully done—the book is such a pleasure to hold and a visual delight with the turn of every page.” —Martin Alexander, editor in chief, the Asia Literary Review

Remembering Shanghai is so absorbing—an amazing family history filled with tragedies and triumphs—a story of resilience and valor told with candor and humor. It is charmingly illustrated and enriched with wonderful photographs. Sections on Chinese customs and traditions are helpful.” —Nelly Fung, author, Beneath the Banyan Tree and Fung Ping Shan, the Man and His Library

Remembering Shanghai transports readers to upper-class China on the brink of the Cultural Revolution. Through engaging characters, richly detailed descriptions and exquisite illustrations, we discover what Mao’s regime ruined, not only for China but art lovers everywhere. We mourn what might have been yet savor what Isabel and Claire have restored via memory and meticulous research. Long after reading their book, you’ll fondly remember Shanghai.”  —Debra Lee Baldwin, photojournalist and author, Escondido, CA

“Chinese history is difficult to teach and learn. However, this insightful memoir provides personal details that anyone interested in recent China can relate to as living history to better understand China today and yesterday.” —Dr. William Zanella, (ret.) associate professor of Asian history, Honolulu, HI

Remembering Shanghai is the most interesting and well written book I have read in recent years. Isabel and Claire have a great story to share. I was very touched by their last chapter Lost and Found. Isabel will always remain my idol!” —Julie C., Hong Kong

“A positively riveting family history from the 1840s to the present, remembered and deftly recounted by the mother-daughter authors – a real gem!”  —D.L., Hong Kong

Remembering Shanghai is a memoir that reads like an epic novel and a poem at the same time. I was utterly hooked from the first line until the very last page, sad to have to disengage from the story when it ended. Sprinkled with family photos, endearing illustrations and sidebars to explain aspects of Shanghai culture, I was transported to the beloved Shanghai of Isabel’s childhood. An astonishing story, the kind that stirs deeply and stays with you.” —Sally Nhomi, Honolulu, HI

Remembering Shanghai is so extraordinarily well-written that I couldn’t tear myself away from reading it. I want to get more copies to give to those who want to know more about the history of Old Shanghai.” —S.M.G., Hong Kong

Remembering Shanghai is masterful, intriguing and delightful—a labor of love.” —Priscilla G., Honolulu, HI

“Beautifully written, historically educational and a fascinating story. The book is dotted with photographs and lovely drawings that enhance and take this true story to the next level!” —Laura W., Honolulu, HI

“I thoroughly enjoyed every minute, especially the tidbits about old Shanghai—the road names, having to switch licenses as you crossed into a different settlement, the depictions of the Great World—invaluable to the younger generation such as myself, and without which we’d lose a precious connection to our past.” —Kenneth Y., Shanghai

“I absolutely loved this book. More so having known Claire Chao, but more importantly it is beautifully written. Anyone with longtime Hong Kong connections will enjoy it.” —Ann B., Mosman, Australia

“A highly enjoyable addition to a crowded genre. Its subtitle—A Memoir of Socialites, Scholars and Scoundrels—sets a certain rollicking tone that’s sustained throughout … an engaging and entertaining saga.” —Fionnuala McHugh, South China Morning Post, Post Magazine

“I truly enjoyed reading Remembering Shanghai. It evoked Shanghai so vividly I felt I was there. It was a pleasure reading my father’s account of the Great World, also. The authors’ writing is masterful, and it brought tears and laughter to me for over a week.” —Nicholas von Sternberg, cinematographer, son of the director and author Josef von Sternberg, Valencia, CA

“Unforgettable. Many books have been written by former residents of Shanghai in the 1930s and ’40s, but few by Chinese. The stories of Isabel Sun Chao and her family give us a unique point of view of Old Shanghai, a place that is long gone but still very vivid in the imaginations of a few.” —Hugues Martin, writer,

“What a fabulous book! I love everything about it—the lively anecdotes, the evocative illustrations, and the brilliant way in which Isabel’s personal memories, Claire’s perspective, and rich historical and cultural information are blended. I was sucked in by Muma’s stunning qipao and glamorous French perfume in Japanese-occupied Shanghai, and by the scholarly Diedie, with his ink brushes and beloved gongshi stones. All too soon I was marveling at the magical ending. A wonderful read!” —Carmen Chan, Tokyo

“I finished Remembering Shanghai with tears in my eyes, for the poignant and satisfying description of a search for cultural roots that spans five generations and international borders from China to Hong Kong and Hawaii. Mother and daughter share a gift for storytelling that captivates and brings to life the rich history, culture, food and everyday life of a time and place that most of us have little opportunity to learn about. They’ve created a treasure—a family history that is a gift to all. —Beth C., Brooklyn, NY

“From the very first sentence, the reader is transported to a period in time in China experiencing the stories through the eyes of a young girl, daughter, granddaughter, sister, wife and mother. Remembering Shanghai felt like a visiting friend and companion whom I was sad to say bye at the end of the book. Heartfelt and engaging, it is a wonderful read.” —Debbie C., Mountain View, CA

“This is such a great read—an amazing and inspirational book on many levels—luxuriously colorful and detailed descriptions that made me swoon and laugh out loud, offering important insights that would otherwise be lost. I loved the way the voices are differentiated between mother and daughter. It makes it intimate, and retains separate lenses of the authors’ two-generation view of a vast historic landscape. An enriching and gorgeous, tragic, victorious story that nourished my heart and my brain. I absolutely adored it.” —Bernice Kiyo Glenn, Lanikai, HI

Remembering Shanghai is a magical passport into a place and a life that was and is extraordinary. I don’t remember ever being so engaged by a personal history, so rich in detail on so many levels. I thought I knew a bit about that Shanghai era, but I hadn’t been prepared to accompany Isabel on such a touching journey through her life as a young woman, and to learn so much through Claire’s wonderful explanations and comments. Apart from the story itself, the collaboration between mother and daughter over such a long period is striking and enviable.” —Linda Mettler, San Francisco, CA

Remembering Shanghai had me totally hooked and fascinated. My grandmother left Shanghai on her honeymoon and never went back; I can only guess that she shared many of the same hardships as yours. I am sure this beautifully written memoir will touch many.” —Jackie Hui, Hong Kong

“I finished Remembering Shanghai in one sitting. Isabel’s mesmerizing stories of her ancestors are brought vividly into the readers’ experience by her daughter Claire’s magnificent language. I could not put it down!” —Betty Peh-T’i Wei, PhD, author, Old Shanghai and Shanghai: Crucible of Modern China

“The facts in Remembering Shanghai are so dramatic they read like fiction. The weave of voices in this book does a terrific job of setting one family’s repeated rags to riches story against the backdrop of Shanghai and Chinese history in an era of drastic changes. The illustrations and photos bring the story to life and the sidebars provide valuable insights for western readers into Chinese cultural practices.” —Heather A. Diamond, author, American Aloha: Cultural Tourism and the Negotiation of Tradition

“An absorbing true tale of Old Shanghai, beautifully written and illustrated.” —Genevieve Young, book editor, New York, NY

“I loved it. It’s a very personal account about growing up and maturing during a historical period of modern China, and very moving.”   —Diane T. Woo, New York, NY

“A delight from cover to cover, I thoroughly enjoyed getting lost in the story of this very intriguing family. I truly did not want this book to end! The authors cleverly weave details of Chinese art, language and history through their fascinating family tree, bringing to life five generations of a family you find yourself endeared to, wanting to turn the pages faster and faster to learn more. A great read!” —Kathy C., Sarasota, FL

“I finished reading Remembering Shanghai in two days. Couldn’t put it down. Claire and Isabel took me back together in their journey and it’s amazing! The research done by Claire and the stories! Wonderful narratives so vividly written. The fact that mother and daughter co-wrote this is so touching and heartwarming.” —Vanessa Hui, Hong Kong

“A tapestry of sheer delight. Isabel's memories are so vividly and candidly recounted—skillfully entwined with Claire’s elucidation of historical facts, Chinese beliefs and customs makes for a narrative that’s enjoyable, enlightening and compelling.” —Shirley Chen, Hong Kong

“A remarkable true story that will be savored by any reader. Remembering Shanghai unfolds from Old Shanghai to the present-day Hong Kong as it reveals a family’s cast of scholars, scoundrels and socialites. Like an exquisite silk fabric, the expertly crafted anecdotes, memories, illustrations and photos are lovingly stitched together to bring this memoir to life.” —Carol Braig, Longmont, CO

“Cover to cover; I could not put down this beautifully illustrated gripping account of the Sun family’s evolution from accidental wealth and privilege through the cruelty of Mao to the modern generation.” —Barbara Stehouwer, Honolulu, HI

“Once I received this wonderful book, I couldn't put it down. This story was beautifully written and illustrated. I plan on sharing it with my friends, especially those who remember this time in China.” —Melanie F., Honolulu, HI

“Claire Chao wrote with great accuracy and with vivid images of Shanghai. Her mom, Isabel Sun Chao created a historical base for a legendary family story rich with anecdotes ... I could not put the book down!” —David Au, Hong Kong

“This book was wonderful—I thought the family story and history were a great ride. Great to see some of the places that were swinging then are still swinging now. The interstitial pieces added great context about Chinese culture and customs.” —Robert E., San Francisco, CA