Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Shanghai Girls - Book Review

For the first time in two and half years, I didn't read the book for our monthly book club meetings. It's a book I'm actually looking forward to reading, I just didn't get a chance to read it this month. Ironically, I have a lot less time to read in the summer. The kids are staying up later and we're spending our evenings playing with friends and family. It's all good.

Even though we didn't discuss the assigned book at our book club meeting last night, we did, of course, talk about books. One friend and I shared our mutual love and affection for the book I just finished last week -- Shanghai Girls by Lisa See.

Sisters Pearl and May are "beautiful girls" in 1930's Shanghai, meaning they pose regularly for the popular advertisements depicting beautiful girls using a variety of products. They are from the upper classes and have enjoyed a fun and spoiled life in the "Paris of Asia". But their lives are drastically changed by their father's financial demise and the invasion of China by the Japanese. Eventually, Pearl and May will immigrate to the United States, carefully guarding their secrets.

Shanghai is a fascinating setting. I was enthralled. Pearl and May are devoted and loving sisters, in spite of being very different personalities. Together and separately, they do what they must to survive in frightening and dangerous times. While the threats are different once they arrive in the US, they still live in constant fear. So much of their circumstances is beyond their control, but the sisters' contrasting reactions and beliefs are very interesting.

The plot moves along frantically through the first half of the book. I could hardly put it down. Later, the plot does slow and time begins to move in large segments. I felt the book lost some of it's early momentum at this point, but it is still compelling.

The ending would have upset me if I didn't already know that there is a sequel, Dreams of Joy. I've already started reading it.

Bringing up powerful topics of war, survival, immigration, motherhood, family devotion, and sacrifice, Shanghai Girls is a truly rich novel.


Jinky said...

I enjoyed this book too! --I forgot about the sequel, thanks for the reminder. =]

Laura@livingabigstory said...

Like you said, the ending bothered me *because* I felt like I got dropped. I found out a couple of weeks ago that there's a sequel and can't wait to read it. I love her books!

If you like this type of book, have you read Wild
Swans? It's long, but *fabulous*!

alisonwonderland said...

I read Shanghai Girls last summer, and I was hoping for a continuation of Joy's story. I'm looking forward to read Dreams of Joy this year.