Sunday, January 19, 2014

House In Shanghai


House In Shanghai by Emily Hahn (Originally published as Miss Jill in 1947, and released in an AVON paperback edition in 1950 as Miss Jill From Shanghai; then again in Fawcett Crest edition in 1958 as House In Shanghai. Jill is a sweet young prostitute working in a Shanghai red light district. Her story is interesting; though she’s British but comes from Australia. Her mother appears to be living in Australia with different men, and often places the young Jill in the convent. At about 15, and highly intelligent,  she meets a rich Japanese man, and wanting to learn languages becomes acquainted with him she is soon his paramour. He takes her around the world with him, his wife and daughters, and pretends she is merely a friend of the daughter. In Japan they are forced apart, and she is put on a boat to Shanghai where she meets a count, who is a rounder and takes her money. She ends up with the house of prostitution. She is a white girl with soft blond hair. It might be noted, too, that girls from around the world were being forced into brothels from white slavery markets at the time, so she wasn’t the only white girl in this situation in Shanghai. Jill makes the best of her life, as she struggles as a prostitute. When Japan makes a bid for world conquest, she is placed in a POW camp in Hong Kong with other British subjects, where she reforms with the help of a priest, and upon liberation sets out on a new path. This is likely the influence for such novels as The World of Susie Wong, A Girl Named Tamiko, and others.


Emily Hahn was a newspaper writer, Harvey Girl, spent time in Africa and China, and lived in the red light district of China (her bio doesn't say she worked in the red light district, however). She lived with several Chinese writers and poets; she eventually married an Englishman, was an Opium addict, and wrote numerous novels during her long career. I'm surprised there has never been a movie chronicling her life. She was an American, though of Asian descent, and graduated with an engineering degree. This was in the early 1900s. She broke many barriers as a woman, an Asian in America, and something of a rebel. She was in China when Japan invaded, and slapped her Japanese interrogator. Whew! Plus, she was very beautiful.

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