Based on true stories and new research, Paul French weaves together the stories of those Jewish refugees who moved on from wartime Shanghai to seek a possible route to freedom via the Portuguese colony of Macao – “the Casablanca of the Orient”.
The delicately balanced neutral enclave became their wartime home, amid Nazi and Japanese spies, escaped Allied prisoners from Hong Kong, and displaced Chinese. Strangers on the Praia relates the story of one young woman’s struggle for freedom that would ultimately prove an act of brave resistance.
Strangers on the Praia was serialised as a podcast on Hong Kong’s RTHK Radio 3, and the adaptation was a New York Festivals Radio Awards finalist.
“While the Second World War may have concluded more than seventy years ago, new stories from that era continue to pop up, even now. Paul French’s new book, Strangers on the Praia: A Tale of Refugees and Resistance in Wartime Macao, tells the little-known history of Jewish refugees in Shanghai that fled to the neutral Portuguese enclave. Strangers on the Praia began life as a piece in Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, followed by a four-part podcast on Hong Kong radio and, then finally, in this relatively short print volume. Featuring French’s trademark research, and based on an amalgam of actual people, it might be characterized as ‘might have happened’ history, albeit incomplete, as French admits: ‘It is, as they say, based on a number of true stories, but history has chosen not to reveal all the details to us. This is as frustrating for the reader as it is for the author. However, the story of those few European Jewish refugees from fascism who arrived in Macao remains worth telling.’ Yet so much in the book does seem complete, giving the reader a vivid idea of how some Jewish refugees left the relative safety of Shanghai for Macau in order to find better living conditions.” – Susan Blumberg-Kason, Asian Review of Books