Between the Lines, Conversations in South Africa

I spent ten months in South Africa during the apartheid regime. I interviewed South Africa’s black, Indian, Coloured and white inhabitants in an effort to discover what it is like to live in an immoral society. What are the choices one has to make and how are they made? As well as interviewing extensively, I lived with an Indian family in Durban for a month and helped on a documentary for Dutch TV about the then nascent black trade union movement which was to play such an important role in the over throw of the apartheid regime.

 ‘A remarkable achievement and a notable feat of observation. Harriet Sergeant has told a sad and bitter story well’ Alan Paton
‘The book is concerned with the way people open their hearts, and the turns of phrase are caught with considerable skill’ Observer
‘The voices Ms Sergeant records ring true both in their passions and their evasions’  Sunday Times

Click here to buy a copy.

Jonathan Cape, London, 1985


A History of Shanghai in the 1920s and 1930s

In the 1920s and ‘30s Shanghai was the most international city the world has ever seen. It was also ‘The Whore of the Orient’, home to gangsters and warlords, nightclubs that never closed and hotels that supplied heroin on room service. It became the epitome of glamour, immortalized in books and films – both Western and Chinese. It was the city where the protagonists of the Second World War sat on the same Municipal Council and attended the same nightclubs. Shanghai was also at the centre of events shaping China’s history during this period. With its bustling and polyglot population of British, Chinese, Americans, French, Germans, Japanese and White Russians, its extremes of poverty and wealth, it appeared to straddle East and West. By the time the Chinese Communist take-over of 1949, Shanghai had passed into legend. This book is divided up between the nationalities who contributed most to the city and the battles of 1927,1932 and 1937 which destroyed it. There is a section on the Chinese, the British and the White Russians. Under the Chinese section I look at the lives of the very poor in the International Settlement, the birth of the Chinese film industry and Lu Xun and the role of the Chinese artist.

This book is a combination of interviews with Shanghai’s former inhabitants from that era – all, sadly, now dead – and extensive research over five years. Both interviews and research were carried out in London, Paris, New York, San Francisco, Tokyo and Shanghai.

 ‘A vivid portrait of Shanghai in its prime’  J. G. Ballard
‘A completely fascinating book’  Auberon Waugh
‘Beautifully chronicled, a cautionary narrative of great charm and great compassion’ Japan Times
‘Harriet Sergeant pulls back the curtain on the people who made Shanghai synonymous with wondrous excess’ Wall Street Journal

Click here to buy a copy.

Jonathan Cape, London, 1991
(Also published in the USA by Random House and translated into Japanese and published in Japan.)

An Englishwoman in Japan

I lived in Tokyo, Japan for seven years. This is a book of my experiences based on articles written for the Sunday Time sand The Spectator.

Click here to buy a copy.

John Murray, London, 1994
(Also translated into Danish)

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