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79. Shanghai Girls by Lisa See...

May 24, 2009
Here's another book that I was absolutely thrilled to receive. After reading & loving Lisa See's Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Peony in Love, I couldn't wait to read Shanghai Girls

About the book:
Pearl Chin and her younger sister, May, are beautiful, modern, and living the carefree life in prewar Shanghai--until the day their father tells them that he has gambled away their wealth and that in order to repay his debts he must sell the girls as wives to suitors who have traveled from Los Angeles to find Chinese brides.

As Japanese bombs fall on their beloved city, Pearl and May set out on the journey of a lifetime. In Los Angeles, they begin a fresh chapter, trying to find love with the strangers they have married and striving to embrace American life. Along the way there are terrible sacrifices, impossible choices, and one devastating, life-changing secret.

Lisa See's spellbinding novel follows the fascinating lives of these sisters as they struggle to survive in a strange country while bound to the ways of the old. Readers who love Lisa See's mesmerizing command of character, setting, and story will find much to cherish in the pages of Shanghai Girls.

Ah, where to start with this review? ... Pearl and May are sisters who do what every sister-pair does - try to be cool & hip, push boundaries, enjoy life; all while trying to maintain traditions. They are privileged--their businessman father has provided luxuries others cannot even fathom. And they're recognized because they're "beautiful girls" whose images are used to sell everything the Chinese girl needs to be cool & hip. So when they're essentially sold off to pay gambling debts, they don't understand. How could this happen to them? They're modern! Enlightened! Employed!

Instead of accepting fate, the sisters rebel against the decision. It's so easy to just not do what your parents want you to... Unknown to them though, going along with the arranged marriages would have made their life just that little bit easier down the road. As it is, they're caught in Shanghai when the Japanese invade, and face a harrowing journey to get out. Deciding where to go is easy--there's nowhere else but America, where their husbands await.

Once in America, Lisa See sets a scene of immigrants looking to better their lives, & the lives of their families. Los Angeles in the 30's is very xenophobic, and nobody wants Occidentals moving in next door. The solution? Why, build an area just for them, of course. We'll even call it Chinatown! Residents are resigned to the fact that the American Dream is always on the other side of the fence--either because they're afraid to attract notice due to their immigrant status, or they're turned down outside the borders...

Shanghai Girls is rich in detail--both in the characters and the setting. Pearl and May have the unfortunate fate of learning that all is not what it seems--from their languid if busy lives in Shanghai, to the reality they face once they've reached America. The layers upon layers of the sisters' lives peel back like an onion under Lisa See's knife. I was completely immersed in the communication between the sisters--because there's always volumes in what is not said, or very briefly mentioned, when you are trying to protect yourself from even the ones you love the most. It will be available next week, I highly recommend picking up a copy.

Title: Shanghai Girls
Author: Lisa See
ISBN-10: 1-400-06711-1
ISBN-13: 978-1-400-06711-4
Paperback: 315 pages (ARC)
Publisher: Random House, May 26 2009

9 comments:

Julie said...

Great review-I have this book in one of my piles somewhere...I must find it NOW!!! Thanks:)

NotNessie said...

I loved Snowflower and Peony. This one sounds great too, thanks for reviewing.

Dragonfly said...

I love Snowflower, I'll have to pick this one up!

Melanie said...

I've got this book too. I'm really looking forward to reading it. I have a few others I need to get to first.

bermudaonion said...

I love immigrant stories, so I'm really looking forward to reading this book.

Kaye said...

I liked this one too. I think I liked the beginning better, though. Great review, Drey.

Jo-Jo said...

I also loved this book Drey...glad you enjoyed it!

Dar said...

Great review Drey! This is one I'd like to read for sure.

ANovelMenagerie said...

I loved loved loved this book! I'm glad you liked it as well!

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