Historical Fiction Reviews

The Song of the Jade Lily | Book Review

Author: Kirsty Manning

Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐🌗/5

Trigger Warnings: gore depiction, death of a child, gun violence, war


As Alexandra returns to Australia to be beside her grandfather in his last few days, she finds out that there are family secrets that have been hidden by both her grandparents for more than half a century. She must set out to Shanghai to explore her mother’s true origins before she was adopted by her grandparents. But as she finds bits and pieces of her mother’s history, her grandmother, Romy’s own past is also uncovered.

In another timeline, the book also explores Romy’s childhood during the World War 2 while fleeing Vienna and coming to Shanghai, forming a fierce friendship with her neighbor Li and her brother Jian. But as they grow up, the war intensifies and they all have to lose someone they hold dear.

What I liked about the book

I might be biased but I have always enjoyed reading books set in the Asian culture. This book did complete justice to that where we get to see Shanghai through the eyes of two women in different generations. The description of the buildings, the delicacies and the ingredients, the people around the city was painted with lush details. The story beautifully talks about friendship, love, hardships faced during war, loss of family and courage.

At several parts of the story, it was horrifying to see how Chinese were treated in their country by the Japanese. I would audibly gasp or have tears running down my cheeks while reading them. My heart truly went out for Romy throughout the entire book and couldn’t even imagine the pain she must have had to endure throughout her life.

What I disliked about the book

I don’t think there is much to say about what I disliked. The book had a slow start but really gets going towards the middle. I also felt like we barely got to see much of Alexandra’s growth. While the book was supposed to be focused on her finding her roots, it all felt quite rushed and glossed over. As a reader, we found out about her past through Romy’s own thoughts and not through Alexandra finding much of anything. It definitely seemed like the author concentrated more on only Romy’s story and not Alexandra’s.

Recommended for anyone who

  • is looking for a book set during WW2
  • wants a fast paced book
  • is looking for a plot driven story intermingled with great character arcs
  • wants a book sent in China

Comment down below your thoughts on the book or if you are going to be picking it up soon.


By Harini @BookSpiral

Hi! I am Harini and I run this blog. I am a massive lover of books and like to spend all my time reading. My main aim is to explore new topics and unique books and talk about it on my blog. Hope you enjoy the content that I put out!

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