Just down from Cambridge in the summer of 1937, Sally Marsden contemplates her future without enthusiasm. So many have assumed she will marry Hugh Jerrold it is, practically, an engagement. When Hugh returns from his diplomatic posting to China they will be married. But before submitting to the strictures of upper-middle-class life, Sally embarks on one last adventure - travelling to China herself, where she will spend the winter.
The Sino-Japanese war begins shortly after Sally's arrival and a disastrous miscalculation separates her from Hugh and leaves her trapped in Nanking, one of two dozen Europeans and Americans to witness the capture and sack of the city by the Japanese Imperial Army. The experience is shared with Peter Moss, an American photo-journalist and friend of Hugh. Bystanders in a racial war, Sally and Peter emerge physically unscathed but utterly changed, and all their attempts to carry on as before quickly founder.
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Galbraith has a confident ear for the language of the time, and makes canny use of historical detail... He orchestrates the whole with structural flair and cinematic snappiness... Galbraith is to be commended for retelling, with urgency and clarity, events which have been variously ignored, forgotten and denied - Guardian
Remarkable... His research is impeccable, his take on the period detailed but never dull. He has a cinematographer's eye for the compelling image, and an obvious gift for storytelling - Glasgow Herald
Reads effortlessly, like a feature film unspooling in the mind: an epic full of war and all its horrors - Scotsman
Humane, judicious, beautifully written... His measured prose is distinguished by the lovely phrase and the haunting cadence, and a painterly eye for detail - Sunday Herald