Thank you to Black and White Publishing for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.


It’s April 1939 and, with their lives in Berlin and Vienna under threat, Esther and Kitty – two very different women – are forced to make the same brutal choice. Flee Europe, or face the ghetto, incarceration, death.

Shanghai, they’ve heard, Shanghai is a haven – and so they secure passage to the other side of the world. What they find is a city of extremes – wealth, poverty, decadence and disease – and of deep political instability. Kitty has been lured there with promises of luxury, love, marriage – but when her Russian fiancé reveals his hand she’s left to scratch a vulnerable living in Shanghai’s nightclubs and dark corners. Meanwhile, Esther and her little girl take shelter in a house of widows until the protection of Aaron, Esther’s hot-headed former lover, offers new hope of survival.

Then the Japanese military enters the fray and violence mounts. As Kitty’s dreams of escape are dashed, and Esther’s relationship becomes tainted, the two women are thrown together in the city’s most desperate times. Together they must fight for a future for the lives that will follow theirs.

My Review

I’ve read both good and bad books that cover this part of history. Because of this, I was sceptical about reading The Lives Before Us, however, I was intrigued by the premise of this book and the different angle it was taking surrounding World War II and the Holocaust.

And boy, am I glad I took a chance and picked it up.

The Lives Before Us is a charming and heart-warming tale of two women who met on a ship when they fled Europe to seek safety in Shanghai. It is also a horrifying, shocking, brutal and heart-breaking story about their lives once they made it to Shanghai. It is nothing like they thought it would be and over the next several years, whilst the world was at war, they wonder if they made the right decision.

Juliet’s writing was beautiful and charming whilst also being real and leading you to believe this was a true story. Whist not based on a specific true story, this is based on lots of research by Juliet in which she has been able to piece together what Shanghai would have been like during World War II and also how the Jews would have lived and been treated during this time.

A beautiful story of survival, friendship, community and loss during one of the most horrendous periods of time in our history.

The Lives Before Us will particularly resonate with readers of Jeremy Dronfield (The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz), Anthony Doerr (All The Light We Cannot See), Heather Morris (The Tattooist of Auschwitz), and Costa-winner Bart van Es (The Cut Out Girls). – Quoted from Black and White Publishing 2019.

I gave this book 4.5 / 5 stars.

Steph xoxo