I usually feature living authors each month, but to start the new year I thought I would showcase one of my favorites and someone I thought about when I recently traveled back to Shanghai–and the Peace Hotel–for the first time in 20 years.
Vicki Baum was an author, woman, and mother ahead of her time. Born in Vienna, she wrote at night when her children were asleep. Her novel, Grand Hotel, brought her to international stardom and gave her the chance to go to Hollywood to oversee the production of the film adaptation. She loved the US so much that she brought her family to the US, where they settled some years before WWII broke out. That was a lifesaving move for a Jewish family.
From Los Angeles, Baum traveled across the Pacific and stayed at the Cathay Hotel, which is now the Peace Hotel. Her novel, Shanghai ’37, is set in the fictional Hotel Shanghai (based on the Cathay), and foretells the story of the Shanghai Jewish refugees. It’s one of my favorite novels and I’ve read it at least three times. My parents bought a copy of this book in the gift store of the Peace Hotel back in 1995.