Ten Green Bottles: The True Story of One Family's Journey from War-torn Austria to the Ghettos of Shanghai

Ten Green Bottles: The True Story of One Family's Journey from War-torn Austria to the Ghettos of Shanghai

by Vivian Jeanette Kaplan

Paperback(First Edition)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312330552
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 10/14/2004
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 353,818
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Vivian Jeanette Kaplan was born in Shanghai, where her parents were married. As her family originated in Vienna, her mother tongue is German. When she was two years old, her parents arrived in Canada, settling in Toronto. She graduated from the University of Toronto, where she studied English, French, and Spanish. She is married and has three sons. For a number of years the family owned and ran a lakeside lodge in Muskoka, north of Toronto. For twenty years she had her own business, Vivian Kaplan Oriental Interiors, an import-export firm with interior design showrooms specializing in décor from the Far East. Ten Green Bottles, which tells her own true family saga, is her first book.

Reading Group Guide

To Nini Karpel, growing up in Vienna during the 1920s was a romantic confection. Whether schussing down ski slopes or speaking of politics in coffee houses, she cherished the city of her birth. But in the 1930s an undercurrent of conflict and hate began to seize the former imperial capital. This struggle came to a head when Hitler took possession of neighboring Germany. Anti-Semitism, which Nini and her idealistic friends believed was impossible in the socially advanced world of Vienna, became widespread and virulent.

The Karpel's Jewish identity suddenly made them foreigners in their own homeland. Tormented, disenfranchised, and with a broken heart, Nini and her family sought refuge in a land seven thousand miles across the world.

Shanghai, China, one of the few countries accepting Jewish immigrants, became their new home and refuge. Stepping off the boat, the Karpel family found themselves in a land they could never have imagined. Shanghai presented an incongruent world of immense wealth and privilege for some and poverty for the masses, with opium dens and decadent clubs as well as rampant disease and a raging war between nations.

Ten Green Bottles is the story of Nini Karpel's struggles as she told it to her daughter Vivian so many years ago. This true story depicts the fierce perseverance of one family, victims of the forces of evil, who overcame suffering of biblical proportion to survive. It was a time when ordinary people became heroes.

1. In many ways Nini was a typical Austrian in her upbringing. What did she especially love about her youth in Vienna?

2. What Jewish cultural teachings impacted on her during childhood and adolescence that lay a foundation for her feelings towards her religion?

3. Nini's journey took her to self-discovery. From isolation to a world-view how did her outlook on the rest of humanity change because of the events of her life?

4. Nini attended a seder at Poldi's family's home. During the reading of the Haggadah she had a feeling of impending doom. The Passover tale is a foreshadowing of events that will take place. Consider the similarities between her life and the Exodus story. How many can you think of?

5. The book is written in a visual way. Words are used as pigments to depict the events that take place. Think of the story in terms of light and dark as a painter or film-maker might do. If light represents hope and dark is sadness what has the writer done to express the mood in descriptive terms?

6. The title "Ten Green Bottles" is enigmatic. It can be interpreted in various ways. Thinking of the actual words of the song that it is derived from, what other aspects of the title are present in the book? Think of the number ten, significant in various ways and then of the idea of broken glass. Even the color green is important. How are the words of the title evident throughout the book?

7. The book has been written as an exploration of the senses. How many can you find? Give examples of ways that the reader is invited into the pages to relive the experiences of the protagonist.

8. One aspect of the book is that of the strong female heroine. How is Nini the central figure in the survival of the family? Are there other strong women in the book? How do they take control of their destinies?

9. There are inanimate objects that play important roles in the story. What are they and what do they have to "say"?

10. Between them Nini and Poldi are hinges by which the Axis powers swung. They were involved with each of the three: Germany, Italy and Japan. How were these seemingly average people affected by the grand scheme of the waring nations? What did they do to take control of their own lives when they seemed destined to become victims?

11. Nini and Poldi looked for help to get them through the most difficult of their ordeals. How did Herr Berger, Herta Weinstein, Leon Druck, and Mother Laula influence them and change their outlook on life?

12. Nini's father wrote a poem that had eerie foreshadowing elements. How did the words that he wrote years before the Nazi takeover and the war years provide comfort and advice to Nini when she needed guidance?

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Ten Green Bottles: The True Story of One Family's Journey from War-Torn Austria to the Ghettos of Shanghai 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
suesbooks on LibraryThing 3 months ago
This book was so well-written. Kaplan provided just enough information and nothing extra, but I had a real feel for these people's lives. I also easily identified with these characters, as they were presented so well. This is one of the best books I've read about the Holocaust.
Barbaraketubah More than 1 year ago
About 1/3rd into the ebook right now and reading about a family from a different perspective and how they left Vienna and journeyed to Shanghai. Amazing how resourceful they were in getting away.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story had a smooth flow and described the plight of the family both in Europe and Vienna. It wasn't one that was very unusual from others that I have read in the past. However, I thought the description of the living areas in Shanghai was very picturesque.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
HALRPH More than 1 year ago
Good biographical story about Nazi Vienna. I never knew Jews emigrated to Shanghai - learned lots. Not too crazy about writing style
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is by far not only one of the best books based on the Holocaust that I've read but one of the best books I've ever read...period! At first you think how lucky this family was to "escape" the war...however you quickly come to learn that they have just been transported from one hell to another. The story of migration to Shanghai during WWII is not often written about and is one worth knowing and understanding. This family and many others overcame horrific circumstances and give a new meaning to the word "survival." The author immediately draws you into the story and she successfully creates an emotional attachment to the characters. I was captivated by every page. My entire book club loved this book and I've recommended it to many other people. Thank you Vivian Kaplan for this beautiful gift!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a terrific read. What a story Vivian Kaplan has to tell about her family during the years of the holocaust. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the holocaust. I loved this book and admire this author and her family!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I could not help but be completely immersed in every aspect of this book. At times, I actually had to put the book down ,because it was too emotional to read. I cannot begin to comprehend of the unspeakable tragedy and grief that Vivian's mother Nini saw through her journey ,experienced, or felt. My heart defenitely goes out to the many many people and family member's whose lives were taken at the hands of such an unimaginable tragic circumstance in which their lives were placed. I am extremely touched by the story within this book, and I defenitely recommend this book to anyone who has either suffered as a repercussion of this ordeal,or have had family members that have befallen to the same tragic and untimely fate. This book defenitely tugs at your heart strings, and makes you aware of the amazing plight of the human spirit, against even the most dire and devistating odds.This book is a 10.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ten Green Bottles is one of the most powerful, emotional, fascinating and beautifully written books I have ever read. Where has this author been? The story begins in the early 1920s in Vienna where a five year old Jewish girl, called Nini, begins to experience what it is to be the youngest of three sisters. It is written in Nini's voice and throughout the book you seem to live every moment of her life as if you were in her skin. You laugh, cry, feel and experience everthing that happens to her as if it were happening to you, yet the book is non-fiction. The story tells of her life in a growing family and the hardships of her mother in raising her children and carrying on their business after her father's death. As Nini grows into her teenage years, your senses are filled with the excitement of Vienna and the thrill of skiing in the mountains nearby. Then the Nazis come and everything changes. As Jews are now considered vermin, they must flee the city or they will surely die. With the help of a gentile lawyer they are able to leave Vienna for Shanghai. On arriving in this no-man's land with almost no money, they find themselves in the middle of another war between China and Japan. Living in squalor and trying to survive, their life is made even more miserable. Japan, an ally of Germany, forces them and about 20,000 other Jews into a small ghetto with over 100,000 of the poorest Chinese. The story tells of their life and the life of the Jewish community as they try to make it through to the end of the war under the most deplorable conditions imaginable. They are eventually liberated by the Americans and stay until the Communist takeover in the late 1940s when they leave. The story ends with their exceptionally well written arrival in the white winter of Canada where they do not have to fear anymore. I read a lot and to me this book was a literary masterpiece. I also learned about a very interesting part of the Holocaust that I had not known.