White Shanghai Book Club Guide

White Shanghai by Elvira Baryakina

White Shanghai. A Novel of the Roaring Twenties in China by Elvira Baryakina

The bestselling historical Russian novel White Shanghai that tells the story of love, money and power, set against the ideological clashes of communism, nationalism and colonialism of 1920’s China.

Based on numerous memoirs of British, American, Russian, Chinese and other nationals, it recreates the historical period from several viewpoints.Elvira Baryakina’s novel depicts a multinational cast of exotic characters against the backdrop of the early XXth century’s turbulence and fervour that is the period of history which changed the world forever. More... 

Available in Paperback, EBook and Audiobook format

  •  After the Russian Revolution of 1917, about two million people, mostly middle class, the military and aristocracy, were forced to go abroad, leaving behind their homes, careers and social status. Nina Kupina, a former countess, was among them. What options did she have in China, considering she knew only Russian and French and had no money to start a business or even rent a room?  
  • Russian men and women were not on equal terms when they arrived in Shanghai. A young, attractive and single girl had much more chances of success. Why so?  
  • Klim was a successful journalist in Buenos Aires before he came back to his native Russia and married Nina. She knew him as a clever and resourceful man who can cope with blows of fate. Why was she disappointed in him? Or was it not Klim but something else that made her disillusioned?
  • Klim had sacrificed everything he had to be with Nina, and she found herself in a moral trap: either she had to ungratefully dump him or stay with the man who she couldn’t entrust with her fate. What would you do if you were in Nina’s shoes, keeping in mind her circumstances, war experience and inability to predict the future? 
  • Nina knew that the majority of Shanghai’s multi-million dollar fortunes were made by crime and opium trade. How did this fact influence her decision to establish a fake Czechoslovakian consulate? Did she see herself as a criminal?
  • Why did Felix Rodionov, a former Russian cadet working for Shanghai Municipal Police, get involved with gangsters?  Why did he compare himself with an apple in a basket of rot, which will become covered with mold anyway? 
  • What were the reasons for the General Strike in Shanghai in summer of 1925? Why the Chinese were so hostile towards the foreigners? 
  • Why did the whites consider the Chinese the second-class citizens? Why did the Chinese thought of the whites as barbarians? 
  • How did loss of the baby influence Nina and Klim’s relationship? Why was an adoption of a Chinese girl such an ambiguous decision for them? 
  • Why was Nina so fascinated with Daniel Bernard, a wealthy tea trader who had a seemingly happy marriage and no desire to divorce his wife?
  • Why did Daniel Bernard call Nina “kitsune”, a magic fox from the Japanese fairy tales? Why did he prefer another girl, although he found Nina irresistibly attractive? 
  • Did Nina ever learn the secret explaining Daniel strange behavior? 
  • What made Ada Marshall, a 17-year-old governess, fear Nina? 
  • Why did Jiří Labuda, a Czech POW, let Nina to order him about? What were his sexual fantasies about her? 
  • What was so special about Mitya, a young Russian boy turned into a Buddhist monk? Why did some people see him as a healer, but for Ada he was just a “holy fool”? 
  • What role did the Soviet Union play in the civil war in China? What were its purposes? 
  • What were the reasons of war according to Daniel Bernard and why did his wife Edna strongly oppose his opinion? 
  • Klim reassured his wife: “You can tell me everything”, but when Nina shared with him her emotions regarding Daniel Bernard, Klim distanced himself from her. He felt hurt and jealous and could not bare it anymore. Should Nina hold her tongue? Could it help to save her relationship with Klim? 
  • When and why did Nina realize that the only man she needed was her husband? What suggested the idea? 
  • Why did Klim decide to save Nina although he considered her a bad mother, a bad friend and even worse spouse? What was his motivation when he followed her to Soviet Russia?
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Catalogue 2019

Catalogue 2019