Blending the personal with pivotal world history, Zia succeeds in creating a universal, timeless story ... She counters the dismissive narrative of refugees as 'freeloaders and parasites' with examples of their global successes ... Gathered, analyzed, and distilled with insight and meticulous documentation, Zia’s book gives voice to a history almost lost.
... beautifully crafted, carefully researched ... One of the strengths of Last Boat Out of Shanghai is that each member of the central quartet comes across as a well-rounded individual ... Ms. Zia moves [the book] at a deliberate but never dull pace, weaving together episodes relating to first one central character and then another, in a manner that provides the reading pleasures of a well-turned set of interconnected short stories ... Last Boat Out of Shanghai is an engaging work of high-quality popular history. It has things to offer not just to general readers with little knowledge about the city’s intriguing past, but even to specialists who may begin it in a suspicious state of mind ... While Ms. Zia enlisted translators, further use might have added richness to sections of the book that deal with topics about which the English language records are minimal. And though the author consulted many scholarly books, she overlooked some that would have been helpful to her ... These are relatively small complaints, however, in light of how much Ms. Zia does well ... Last Boat Out of Shanghai is so good I’ll certainly need to add it the syllabus for my class.