Monday, June 30, 2014

[Book Review] TEN GREEN BOTTLES by Vivian Jeanette Kaplan


Marilyn reviews Ten Green Bottles: The True Story of One Family’s Journey From War-Torn Austria to the Ghettos of Shanghai by Vivian Jeanette Kaplan (Martin’s Press, 2004) 

The Jews of Austria were loyal Austrian citizens. Their freedoms, loyalty, and culture were gradually destroyed when the Nazi Party increased its political presence and power in Austria. The final destruction came when Hitler annexed Austria in 1938. The Karpel family is trapped like many other Jewish families with no place to go; the world has closed their borders to Jewish immigrants. In Ten Green Bottles, Vivian Jeanette Kaplan recounts her family’s struggle for survival in the midst of the horror.

The Karpel family endures hardships in Austria until 1939, when they escape to Shanghai. Between 1937 and 1939, numbers of Jews escape from Austria to Shanghai.  The family arrived on one of the last ships carrying Jewish refugees to Shanghai--a new world.  Shanghai presents a mixture of many cultures – American, British, and Jewish – which had adapted to their cultures to Chinese culture.

Safety did not remain with the family for long because World War II breaks out and the Japanese invade Shanghai. The struggle to survive begins again amidst the starvation, American bombings, and the terrifying sounds of Chinese being tortured by the Japanese. In the midst of all this horror the Jews are made prisoners in a Shanghai ghetto.

Ten Green Bottles is told in the voice of Nini, the author’s mother. Through her eyes you can see the journey into horror and despair as the Jews are made non-citizens by the Nazis in Austria only to face more struggles in Shanghai. I would encourage anyone to read this book of courage.

Marilyn, Central Librar

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