Book Review: ‘Remembering Shanghai’

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5) Remembering Shanghai: A Memoir of Socialites, Scholars, and Scoundrels – Isabel Sun Chao and Claire Chao

Memoir is not my usual go-to genre and oftentimes I find myself avoiding it all together. But I can honestly say that this memoir was a beautiful book on many levels. My book club read this book for non-fiction November, and I did not hear a single negative comment about it! Everyone loved the story, writing, and book design (which is beautiful)! 

If you’re going to read this book (which I highly recommend) you should definitely pick up the paper copy because the book design, pictures, photos, and artwork are phenomenal and add so much to the reader’s enjoyment and understanding of the book. Several people in book club mentioned that they had forgotten how nice it is to have pictures/artwork included throughout a book rather than only in a middle or end section. 

This story is written by a mother daughter team and the narrative flows seamlessly between voices with Isabel telling her story through memory and her daughter, Claire, providing historical background that enhances the reader’s understanding of the context and world in which Isabel is living. It seems most families have at least a few legendary figures whose stories are passed down from generation to generation. Some legends are famous, others are infamous, and Isabel’s family is no exception. The subtitle ‘socialites, scholars, and scoundrels’ are precisely the characters described in this memoir.  ‘Remembering Shanghai’ is one of those books that is not only enjoyable to read but also so informative that you come away from it learning much more than you thought you would (especially from a memoir). 

This is a fantastic mix of memoir, memory, history, and the visual arts. Pick this one up, you will not regret it.

Read on my friends!

-Haddi encourages you to support local, small, independent bookstores whenever possible. If you would like to purchase online while still supporting independent bookstores, please consider purchasing from

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