on December 11, 2011
It was great to have another book from Daniel Kalla - well worth the wait. Just wanted to send a note to say that I just finished reading "The Far Side of the Sky". What an amazing story - it was very difficult to put down. I was able to identify with Franz, Essie and Hannah, since my mom and her family had to leave their home in Slovenia and cross the border into Hungary - if they looked back, they would have been shot. My grandfather even spent some time in Mauthausen and returned home skin and bones. This was a very difficult time for many people that the Nazis had "issues with" - many died, but many were able to survive and let the world know what really happened. Thank you for bringing this to the attention of those who had no idea and denied that such atrocities really happened. I especially enjoyed the medical aspect and the interaction between Franz and Sunny.
Keep up the good work and I look forward to the continuation of this story.
Carla Pahulje, MRT(R)
on June 22, 2012
The Far Side of the Sky is a novel by Canadian emergency room doctor Daniel Kalla about the experiences of Asians and Europeans in Shanghai during WWII. I'm just going to assume that Daniel Kalla and Vincent Lam have abandoned their game of online chess and are now trying to out-novel each other. Obvious comparisons aside, The Far Side of the Sky is a fantastic novel in its own right. At times heartbreaking (okay, almost entirely heartbreaking), it tells the little known story of European Jews who fled to Shanghai during WWII to escape the Nazis. Specifically, it tells the fictional story of Franz Adler, a Jewish doctor from Vienna who decides to flee after his brother is murdered by the Nazis during Kristallnacht. He travels with his (remaining) family to Shanghai, where he meets Sunny Mah, a Eurasian nurse who also knows about discrimination and racial hatred, in her case at the hands of Japanese soldiers. I don't want to give away any endings, but Daniel Kalla has said that the character of Franz is based loosely on his own grandfather, so expect that it's not all sad and tragic endings (since Dr. Kalla is around to tell the story, I'm assuming things worked out okay for his grandfather), but I'd keep a box of tissues nearby (it's pretty sad in places...most of the book, really).
Disclaimer: I received a digital galley of this book free from the publisher from NetGalley. I was not obliged to write a favourable review, or even any review at all. The opinions expressed are strictly my own.
I am always looking for some good historical fiction that credibly blends the best and worst of humanity in a setting that accurately does justice to the events of history. Though "The Far Side of the Sky" is the first novel of Daniel Kalla's that I have read, I have no hesitation in recommending it for what it has to say about how people, by their deeds, personally and collectively, triumph under adversity, conflict and persecution. The story covers the expulsion of a group of Austrian Jews from Europe a year before the outbreak of WW II and their subsequent adventures and trials as they embark on a new life in Shanghai. The main focus of this fascinating tale is on the many challenges facing an eminent surgeon named Dr. Franz Alder and his immediate family as they escape the clutches of the Gestapo through a backdoor deal. They are the lucky ones because the Nazis are about to launch their resettlement plans for relocating the Jews in preparation for their eventual liquidation under the direction of the evil Adolf Eichmann. Borders will be sealed, ghettos established and death camps constructed but, by some miracle, the Alders will be able to buy their way to freedom. History shows that there was a substantial exodus of Sephardic Jews to Shanghai around this time because it was, for some strange reason, the only place willing to receive them. Arriving in this Oriental port, they quickly learn that the tyranny of the West they are fleeing from has suddenly become the tyranny of the East. As Adler and his family settle in to what they hope is a simple and unassuming life, they quickly realize that a new set of tyrants have come to torment their existence: fellow Jews, Japanese overlords, and even Nazi sympathizers living in the German legation. These are the brutal forces made strong by a hateful desire to control, destroy and discredit. It will take some incredible demonstration of courage, ingenuity and patience to overcome their destructive power. Kalla relates a story that speaks eloquently to the human capacity to act kindly in the midst of great brutality. The impressive architecture of old Vienna and Shanghai are well described in its pages as the reader is taken through their many narrow streets, following a compelling search for freedom and happiness. Being a good person is no guarantee that this journey will be easy or successful. Morally upright people die in this novel but that is the outcome one should be prepared to endure in order to overcome evil. Kalla writes with a flare that makes this narrative a potentially exciting read, both as an even-paced plot and a suspenseful conclusion. I will definitely be picking up other books of his if this is anything to go by.
Mr. Daniel Kalla is best known for his medical thrillers, having read and enjoyed every one of his previous novels I can honestly say this latest addition has to be one of his best and is definitely a page-turner.
“The Far Side of the Sky” is more a love story than a suspense novel, it recounts the period of war torn Shanghai as seen through the eyes of two main characters- Dr. Franz Adler, a secular Austrian Jew and Soon Yi Mah, a native Eurasian nurse. Their lives are caught up in a whirlwind of events in a unique time and place. Although the protagonists are fictional, Mr. Kalla’s notes at the end of the novel indicate he wanted to stay as faithful as possible to the history, culture and geography of Second World War Shanghai. Some of the minor characters including the Nazis and Japanese officials are true historical figures. Mr. Kalla has chosen a very challenging period and engaged his imagination to highlight some events that are recorded in history. By doing so, he has painted a dramatic tale that transports the reader from Austria in the late 30’s to Shanghai early 40’s.
The fast moving plot is narrated in a clear and simple form and opens in Vienna, on Nov.9. 1938- Kristallnacht. Franz Adler, a once prominent surgeon, realizes life as he knew it is degrading fast, his brother has paid the price with his life and danger lurks at every corner. When a window to escape to Shanghai with his daughter and sister in law opens, he seizes the opportunity it may be their only hope for survival.
Once in Shanghai, we follow the lives of the two main characters: Franz and his struggle to get back into the medical field and a young half Chinese nurse, Soon Yi “Sunny” who is a brilliant young woman and a competent surgical nurse. Their working lives eventually cross at a refugee hospital and the chemistry between them blossoms.
I was totally captivated by this surreal tale and once again one of my favourite author’s has produced an outstanding novel.
on April 30, 2012
Just finished Dan Kalla's latest about Jewish refugees in Shanghai during WW2, and what a rewarding read. Highly recommended.
Not so much a thriller as a serious novel, it's quietly compelling, it gets in deep. I found myself thinking about the characters' lives and eager to get back to the book.
Historically accurate and well-researched, Sky has a bit of a steep learning curve as the first few chapters cover pre-WW2 Vienna and dive you into historical detail, threatening to become just another war novel. But it settles into a long, beautiful trip into lovely characters and a rich locale that I'm sorry to be done with.
Very tight and well-written, Dan's craft has come a long way in his career. Sky left me with that satisfying glow of a novel well done. Again, highly recommended.
on September 29, 2015
This novel revealed a lot we did not know about the Chinese aspect of the Second World War. Most of us who were around to be involved in some way even if we were just children were aware of the conflict in the UK, France & other European countries and towards the latter part the conflict with Japan but I don't think many of us realized that the Japanese controlled a part of China. This story makes us aware of all these other aspects of the struggle so much humanity had to live their lives day by day in those dark days of the late 1930's to the mid 1940's. Well told & well written.
on November 15, 2014
Excellent book, historically and otherwise. Was disappointed the ending did not tell me what happened to that large Jewish community in Shanghai. Have since read his follow up book and still didn't find out what happened to them but did find out Kalla is going to write the third book this year. Would have liked it if I had been warned this was a trilogy. In fact, even though both books were excellent, I felt somehow scammed.
on July 21, 2016
A friend recommended this book to me a couple of years ago, and I'm so glad. Since then, I've read it two more times. For me as an emerging writer, the story is gripping and unforgettable; a novel I can learn from in many ways, like the beautiful writing and tender feelings in the midst of chaos in Shanghai during WWII. Utterly absorbing! Loved it!
on March 20, 2014
I loved Daniel Kalla's book! It brought to light the fact that China was one of the few places that would take Jewish refugees during the 2nd world war. The characters were wonderful, as was the narrative, of what life must have been like in China during the time period. Highly recommended reading!
on February 18, 2013
Excellently researched....... Heartbreaking and yet filled with hope....I admire the Jewish people for their faith and courage.....and hang my head in shame at the actions of many nations, my own country Canada in particular....I raise my cup in celebration of the Jewish people.....