White Shanghai
A Novel of the Roaring Twenties in China

Elvira Baryakina

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White Shanghai

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Rating: 5 / 5 stars - 4 vote(s).

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Category: Historical Thrillers, Historische Thrillers, Literature, Literatuur, Novels, Romans, Russian books, Russische boeken
Level: Russian Literature, Russische Literatuur

Some called the place the ‘Splendour of the East’; others the ‘Whore of Asia’. A melting pot of different nations, fused by war and commerce, this was the Shanghai of the 1920s.

The Great Powers are greedily exploiting China for its cheap labour and reaping the cruel rewards of the opium trade. However, as a flotilla of ships carrying the remnants of the defeated White Army enters Shanghai, the uneasy balance of this frenetic international marketplace comes under threat.

Among the refugees is Klim Rogov, a journalist whose life and marriage have been destroyed by the Russian Revolution – all he has left are his quick wits and a keen worldliness that will serve him well in navigating the lawless jungle of Shanghai. He finds work as a reporter at a British-run newspaper, rubbing shoulders with international gangsters while defying the intrigues of sinister communist agents, clinging all the time to the hope that someday he'll be reunited with his beloved wife, Nina.

This complete English translation of Elvira Baryakina's White Shanghai reflects the greatest traditions of the Russian classics. Her years of research in libraries and archives around the world have engendered a rare kind of literature which, by blending a multinational cast of exotic characters against the backdrop of the turbulence and fervour of the early XXth century, sends the reader on a breathless journey of passion, politics and crime.

The novel translated by Anna Muzychka and Benjumin Kuttner.  

For more information about this publication please consult the following website dedicated exclusively to White Shanghai.


"Like any good piece of Russian Literature this book is populated with a huge cast.  The story moves back and forth from concentrating on certain persons/people at a time but eventually they all intersect and become a part of one another lives." Nicola Mansfield, Back to Books

"After the Bolshevik Revolution, tens of thousands of Russians fled to Shanghai, which became Asia’s most cosmopolitan city. Historical novelist Elvira Baryakina’s portrait of the roaring twenties in "White Shanghai" is a suitably bewildering kaleidoscope: prostitutes, bandits and fortune-telling Buddhist monks, warrior Cossacks and singing Mexicans." Phoebe Taplin, RBTH Asia Pacific

“Baryakina holds it all together with a light touch and secure handling of the style and content, mixing history with romance with all‑rounded characters from diverse paths of life, as easily as the book’s cover sets the tone, setting and style of the narrative with a bold touch of Chinese red lanterns, a warm palette and a classy lettering style typical of the Twenties, overlooked by a thoughtful woman’s face.” HISTORICAL NOVEL SOCIETY

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes historical novels firmly set in the period and place, and who don't mind a long novel of more than 500 pages.” VIEWS FROM THE COUNTRYSIDE blog

Thrilling and absorbing White Shanghai is a kind of Shogun, The Last Samurai, or Last Empire type of book with a Russian twist. Masterly synthesizing diverse cultures, the author projects the reader straight onto the stage of modern history with her multi-faceted take on life, making for utterly absorbing reading.” BOOK REVIEW  

“This is a whole new world. Something truly unique.” 
PRO VSE, Moscow daily newspaper

“The book is fascinating!” 
VSEGDA ZHENSCHINA, Moscow monthly magazine for women

“White Shanghai wonderfully conveys the atmosphere of the early 20th century. We all need an example to follow and instinctively start seeking it in the past. Elegant fashion, the tango and the Charleston, political events in which one can immediately see the hero and the coward, bubbling energy and passion—all of this is lacking in our lives filled with computers and offices.” 
UTRO.RU, one of the most popular Russian news websites

“The boldest debut of the spring book season was the weighty tome White Shanghai by Elvira Baryakina. A good omen for Russia, mass market literature bears characteristics of a quality intellectual read. The result is neither stupid nor tedious, but strikes a happy medium.” 
RUSSKAYA MYSL, literary monthly

“The book White Shanghai contains all the elements of an exciting plot—adventure, drama, life scenery, and love.” 
RIA NOVOSTI, news agency

“White Shanghai has a uniqueness which is rarely encountered in contemporary literature: this novel is multifaceted. Each character—whether the witty journalist Klim Rogov, a semiliterate defrocked priest, or a young member of a fascist organization—has his own easily recognizable voice.” 
EXTRA M, national weekly

“The novel turned out refreshing and gripping.” 

SUNDAY PLUS (Pakistan)


Elvira Baryakina

Elvira Baryakina is the author of an ongoing series of novels devoted to the most significant events of the early 20th century.

As a naturalised American who is Russian by birth, Elvira Baryakina draws on a variety of cultures in her books. She travels the world collecting the memories of Chinese, British, and Argentinean people, amongst several other nationalities. The result is a distinctive, multilayered epic allowing readers to look at modern history from different perspectives.

Baryakina was born in 1975 in the Soviet city of Gorky (now Nizhny Novgorod, Russia) into a family that spent its time and money on books- sometimes ones that had been officially banned in the USSR. Her childhood fell during the so-called stagnation era andElvira grew up with a sincere belief in communist ideals. However, as a young woman she lived through Gorbachev’s perestroika, a time of change when communist values were rapidly disintegrating. She pursued a law degree, going into practice and also teaching law at university, but she gave up her legal career upon emigrating to the USA in 2002.

Baryakina has always been fascinated with history at the turn of the 20th century with its Art Nouveau and Art Deco aesthetics, its clash of ideas and its rapid social change. Her profession today is a cross between archaeology and alchemy. From dusty volumes, she extracts long ago forgotten memoirs and mixes countless literary ingredients to produce stories of almost magical intensity that stay with the reader long after they finish her books.

Baryakina currently lives in California, United States.

To book Elvira Baryakina for speaking engagements, please visit Glagoslav Speakers.


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Elvira Baryakina
Catalogue 2019

Catalogue 2019