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Fascinating Period in China's History
on July 8, 2011
Set in the late 1950s, "Dreams of Joy" is the story of young Joy Louie who leaves her comfortable home in Los Angeles' Chinatown for the People's Republic of China to find both her birth father and what she thinks will be a better way of life. Her association with a communist group at the University of Chicago has led her to believe that it isn't the evil portrayed by the United States Government.
Since her birth father is a well-known artist in Shanghai, it is fairly easy for her to find him in spite of government restrictions. After his initial shock of discovering he even has a daughter, he seems happy to know her. She travels with him to the village of Green Dragon where she joins the commune and falls in love with a young peasant farmer.
In 1958, Mao announced the "Great Leap Forward," an attempt to increase agricultural and industrial production. However, three years of floods and bad harvest due to poor farming methods, severely damaged levels of production. The famine that occurred reportedly resulted in 4.5 million fatalities. The author masterfully transports us to that village and shows us in startling detail the horrors that result from this famine. Her attention to detail is wonderful and, while the book isn't a page-turner in the sense of a thriller, I was spellbound by the history of a period in China that has always fascinated me.
Although "Dreams of Joy" is the sequel to "Shanghai Girls," which I have never read, I found it stands alone quite well. Since I am always intrigued by the history of China, I will certainly go back and read the prequel, as well as Ms. See's earlier books. She is a skilful author with the ability to transfer the reader to the exotic country she writes about.