- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (Feb. 2 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0812980530
- ISBN-13: 978-0812980530
- Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 1.8 x 20.3 cm
- Shipping Weight: 249 g
- Average Customer Review: 18 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #33,954 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Shanghai Girls: A Novel Paperback – Feb 2 2010
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“See is a gifted writer, and in Shanghai Girls she again explores the bonds of sisterhood while powerfully evoking the often nightmarish American immigrant experience.”—USA Today
“A buoyant and lustrous paean to the bonds of sisterhood.”–Booklist
“A rich work…as compulsively readable as it is an enlightening journey.”—Denver Post
“The glamour of prewar Shanghai is recalled in Lisa See’s deftly plotted Shanghai Girls.”—Vogue
“An engrossing tale of two sisters.”–Time.com
“Shanghai Girls is one of those books I could not wait to continue reading, because her characters' stories are so compellingly told.”—St. Louis Dispatch
“As in Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Peony in Love, she has in her latest novel created ordinary women who, through willfulness and resiliency, accomplish extraordinary things…See, whose writing is as graceful as these '’beautiful girls,'’ pulls off another exceptional novel.”–Miami Herald
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Lisa See is the New York Times bestselling author of Peony in Love, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Flower Net (an Edgar Award nominee), The Interior, and Dragon Bones, as well as the critically acclaimed memoir On Gold Mountain. The Organization of Chinese American Women named her the 2001 National Woman of the Year. She lives in Los Angeles.
From the Hardcover edition.
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Top customer reviews
This is a generational drama which tells the story of one family and then two families as they become connected by marriage. The focus is on two sisters three years apart in age who, though very different in looks and temperaments are very close, and through all the hardships, tragedies, horrors and sufferings never part from each other. They are sold off as wives to a rich man's sons to pay off their father's gambling debts which have left his family destitute. However, with the invasion of the Japanese the girl's never make it to the ship to America with their new husbands. Instead they and their mother are left to escape Shanghai on their own and seek out a place where they may be safe from the rapacious Japanese. This part of the story is my favourite as it takes place during my favourite time period, the war and the Japanese atrocities in China at the time. The author has written a compelling and terrifying story for these three women, which many others will have experienced similar stories in real life at this time. The closeness between the sisters is bonded and solidified here and they realize the strength and love of their old-fashioned foot bound mother they never knew existed.
As the story moves to America there are many secrets, lies and betrayals hidden in almost every member of the new family's life: Pearl and May, their husbands, their father-in-law (Old Man Louis) and mother-in-law (Yen Yen) and well as the three Uncles. All living together, except the uncles, who live nearby, it would seem hard for so many secrets to exist but they have become the essence of life. Pearl and May have different experiences now and different routes to follows and while envy and jealousy creep up on both parts they never loose their strong ties that bind them together.
A wonderful story, full of tragedy and both bittersweet and familial love. Lisa See's writing is reminiscent of Amy Tan but her topic and sense for tragedy are more in line with Pearl Buck's work. Since I've read all of the latter authors' works I think I've found myself an author to fill their place in my reading. A sequel to this book is available this month, Dreams of Joy, but I think I will go back and read some of See's earlier works first.
The plot is a little contrived and forced at times, but I think the story did fit with the overall historical time period. See excels at setting, her vivid descriptions of Shanghai, Chinatown in Los Angeles, and Angel Island. So much is written about Ellis Island, and rightfully so, but many people forget about the immigration stories of Angel Island, which unfortunately do not end up with any happy Horatio Alger endings.
I can see why a lot of people will take exception with the book, especially Chinese Americans, because many of See's plotlines and character attributes can be viewed as an essentialized version of Chinese culture, and the Asian American experience. But it is a novel after all written for a western audience, without some generalization, the book would be completely irrelevant to the average western reader.
Overall, I have to say that I do highly recommend "Shanghai Girls" despite some reservations about its appeal to the kitsch and predictability. I look forward to reading the sequel.
The story is very well done. Some parts are just heart wrenching and sad, some are very tender and loving. In other words, it's such an emotional roller coaster which makes this story extremely dramatic yet realistic. It's a story of a relationship of two sisters who make it through thick and thin, through very horrible circumstances, yet they survive because of their unconditional love and loyalty to each other. I admire these two qualities in these two women which gave them the strength to carry on with their lives. There are very strong emotions in this novel and you can actually feel them as you read.
Other things to note about this book; I love the cover. I love this kind of art I think it's very beautiful and eye catching. It's a suiting cover as the girls worked as "Beautiful Girls" for posters and ads during their time in Shanghai. The next thing I want to add: I wonder if there is a sequel to this book? it does leave a little bit of a loose end in the finale that leaves room for a second book to follow. If it is the case, then I will be reading it, definitely.
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