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Ten Green Bottles: The True Story of One Family's Journey from War-torn Austria to the Ghettos of Shanghai Hardcover – October 14, 2004

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Ten Green Bottles: The True Story of One Family's Journey from War-torn Austria to the Ghettos of Shanghai + Shanghai Refuge: A Memoir of the World War II Jewish Ghetto + Shanghai Diary: A Young Girl's Journey from Hitler's Hate to War-Torn China
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st edition (October 14, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312330545
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312330545
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #444,618 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

For a brief period between 1938 and 1941, roughly 20,000 Jews found refuge from the Nazis in the one place not requiring visas, police certificates or proofs of financial independence: Shanghai. In this spellbinding memoir, Kaplan recounts her family's transition from the "delight" of Vienna to "a mysterious blob on the map, China." Writing in a fictional present tense, Kaplan narrates this evocative, moving saga in the voice of her mother, Nini. The halcyon early years of cafes and skiing end as the Nazis rise to power. Still, in 1936 when Nini meets her future husband, Poldi, a Polish refugee, she is "adamant that [persecution of Jews] could never happen here." It does. By 1939, her family will make the month-long, 7,000-mile journey to Shanghai. Amid "pervasive poverty... overpowering heat... [and] strange faces," Nini and Poldi find an anxious and precarious normality, but after Pearl Harbor, they struggle terribly. With the war's end comes the shock of learning what became of family and friends left behind in Europe. Although Vienna is rebuilt and a daughter (the author) is born, Communist troops arrive, and Nini and Poldi move again, this time to Canada. Kaplan's intimate knowledge of her parents' story makes it seem as if she experienced it herself, and her remarkable achievement will make readers feel that way, too.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Nini Karpel, her ailing mother, and her young brother left Vienna in 1939 after Germany invaded Austria, fleeing to Shanghai, China, then occupied by Japan--a month-long, 7,000-mile trip across the Pacific. Kaplan, who was born in Shanghai, has written this memoir in the first-person voice of her mother, Nini Karpel, who married Poldi Kosiner there in 1940. By listening to her mother's retelling of the events, Kaplan became familiar with the story. She describes the voyage, first impressions of the city and the ghetto of Hongkew, missing baggage that was never found, coolies working as beasts of burden, and seeing the severed heads of Chinese who were captured by their Japanese enemies. They faced disease, hunger, poverty, and fear; they enjoyed their reunion with other family members; and they were pressured by nuns to convert to the Catholic faith. The family moved to Canada in 1949. Kaplan has written a remarkably vivid and richly detailed account of Jewish refugees struggling to stay alive. George Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

Reading the book made it all so much more meaningful.
Elaine Wild
It was very well written and since it is a true story the author wrote it from her heart.
Bea Hollander
Compelling story of the flight and survival of European Jews from Hitler to Shanghai.
Debra Bardavid

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Bernice on August 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Ten Green Bottles is one of the most powerful, emotional, fascinating and beautifully written books I have ever read. Where has this author been?

The story begins in the early 1920s in Vienna where a five year old Jewish girl, called Nini, begins to experience what it is to be the youngest of three sisters. It is written in Nini's voice and throughout the book you seem to live every moment of her life as if you were in her skin. You laugh, cry, feel and experience everything that happens to her as if it were happening to you, yet the book is non-fiction.

The story tells of her life in a growing family and the hardships of her mother in raising her children and carrying on their business after her father's death. As Nini grows into her teenage years, your senses are filled with the excitement of Vienna and the thrill of skiing in the mountains nearby. Then the Nazis come and everything changes.

As Jews are now considered vermin, they must flee the city or they will surely die. With the help of a gentile lawyer they are able to leave Vienna for Shanghai. On arriving in this no-man's land with almost no money, they find themselves in the middle of another war between China and Japan. Living in squalor and trying to survive, their life is made even more miserable. Japan, an ally of Germany, forces them and about 20,000 other Jews into a small ghetto with over 100,000 of the poorest Chinese. The story tells of their life and the life of the Jewish community as they try to make it through to the end of the war under the most deplorable conditions imaginable. They are eventually liberated by the Americans and stay until the Communist takeover in the late 1940s when they leave.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Bookworm on November 12, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This story about the experiences of a Viennese Jewish family in Shanghai perfectly fulfills two raison d'etre of books - on the one hand it allows the reader to enter a time-warp machine and be transplanted to another time and another place and vicariously live through the emotional upheavals, the smells, sights, sounds and most importantly the feelings of fear, frustration, Angst and yes, fortunately also joy, of the main characters. Vivian Kaplan is a master of setting the scene and allowing the reader to slip into the protagonist's skin. I have lived and worked in Vienna and also in Northern China (albeit at a much later time) and Vivian's writing rings true. The chapters in the book are like 3-D images conjured up for the reader (and would make a very gripping screenplay). The other raison d'etre of books is to preserve and hand down important happenings and narrate them in a gripping and thought-provoking manner. The manner in which the Jews in Austria and elsewhere were treated by an Austrian madman who managed to come to power in Germany should never be forgotten. More importantly, we all need to be vigilant that such events happen less and less frequently in the history of humankind. Although familiar with the story of displaced Jews from German-speaking countries as I (like the author) am offspring, I was unable to put down the book. What Nini Karpel's mother had to experience in one short lifetime is more than most people should have to live through. The book also helped me understand the initial inertia of many Jews in Vienna to the anti-Semitic flare-up in the 1920s and 30s. "Oh, we've seen this many times, let's just lie low and wait for it to blow over". Writing in the present tense made the story more immediate.Read more ›
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By E. A. Montgomery on May 21, 2005
Format: Hardcover
An interesting change from the Western refugee tales. The author writes in her her mother's voice, which is risky, but it rings fairly true. By starting her story well before the war the author creates a relationship with her characters in advance of the events leading to their emigration. Her mother is a fan of Gone With The Wind, and Ten Green Bottles reads like a 1930's epic film. You can see all the 30's/40's actors in the roles of her family.

Very engaging style and very informative - I learned things I had not known and considered things I knew differently. I'm off to find other biography dealing with Chinese bound European refugees.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Henry Waller on May 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I thoroughly enjoyed "Ten Green Bottles". Unlike other books on Shanghai of that period, I particularly relished the intimate glimpse of the extreme wealth and decadence that was ongoing alongside the abject poverty of the immigrants that fled Europe. Much is written here of how people of many nations with unimaginable wealth made Shanghai their "sumptuous playground" between the stench and filth of the city.

In particular, the author's description of the Bolero Club through the eyes of Nini, who worked as a hostess there, was so exciting and so descriptive and so alive that I was sure I was in the room with some of the most powerful men and glamorous women of the time. Her detailed description of the opium den next door, a "grand salon" established exclusively for the very rich, is breathtaking.

This book is a must read for anyone who wants to live the Shanghai of World War II from its lows to its highs.
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