Literary Lunch – Rachel Meller
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18th July 2023 @ 12:15 pm – 2:15 pm
Literary Lunch with Rachel Meller
Our next Literary Lunch author is Rachel Meller, who will be talking to Jude Simpson (our poet-in-residence) about her recently published book The Box with the Sunflower Clasp.
Rachel Meller grew up near London, the middle daughter of Austrian Jewish refugees. After studying neurobiology at the University of Sussex and research into hormones and behaviour at Cambridge University, she became a writer in a communication consultancy. The Box with the Sunflower Clasp is her first book (release date 18th May 2023).
Rachel Meller was never close to her aunt Lisbeth, a cool, unemotional woman with a drawling Viennese-Californian accent, a cigarette always in her hand. But when Lisbeth died, she left Rachel an intricately carved Chinese box with a sunflower clasp. Inside the box were photographs, letters and documents that led Rachel to uncover a story she had never known: that of a passionate Jewish teenager growing up in elegant Vienna who is caught up by war and forced to flee to Shanghai.
Far from home, in a strange city, Lisbeth and her parents build a new life – a life of small joys and great hardship, surrounded by many others who, like them, have fled Hitler and the Nazis. Shanghai is a metropolis where the old rules do not apply – a city of fabulous wealth and crushing poverty, where disease is rife, and gangsters rub shoulders with rich emigrés; where summer brings unspeakable heat, and winter is bitterly cold; and where European refugees build community and, maybe, a young woman can find love.
Set against a backdrop of the war in the Far East, The Box with the Sunflower Clasp is a sweeping family memoir that reveals the hidden history of the Jewish refugees saved by Shanghai. Rachel Meller writes with elegance and insight as she examines what it means to survive and what the legacy of displacement and war might mean for the generation that comes afterwards.
Rachel Meller sensitively tells the story of her aunt Lisbeth and her parents who arrived in Shanghai from Vienna in March 1940… Fascinating― Harry Freedman, author of ‘Britain’s Jews’
This meticulously researched family memoir is as full of drama, emotion and feeling as any novel. It explores a little-known corner of history but also the endlessly fascinating subject of close family relationships and how mysterious those we love can sometimes be. I found it completely engrossing.― dele Geras, author of ‘Facing the Light’