Professional Review

Lesley Duncan, United Kingdom, The Herald - SHANGHAI RECALLED IN FACT AND FICTION
Gudao, Lone Islet, The War Years in Shanghai

Now more than half a century later, and with a successful career in teaching, social and financial market research, and family life in Canada, Margaret Blair has written two books … But it is the personal story that grips. Margaret was born in Shanghai to an English mother and Scottish father. The latter, a Glasgow School of Art graduate, was superintendent of the Criminal Investigation Department for the Shanghai Municipal Council’s police force, and an enlightened, principled man.

Through the ingenuous memories of her young self, the author sketches the privileged life of expatriate children before tragedy struck. She recalls with particular affection her Amah, “my nurse, the centre of my life, my Chinese mother.” The gentle round of family life, school-going, socialising with other western families, and sorties to the city to see the latest American films, was replaced in 1942 by internment.

These traumatic years passed in constant fear of random violence from Japanese guards, lack of food, medical care, privacy, and only the most makeshift educational provision. The fact that Margaret, her mother, and irrepressibly mischievous brother Gordon (four years her senior) survived to return to Scotland says much for human resilience. Their father, too, miraculously survived imprisonment by the dreaded kempeitai Japanese secret police.

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