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China Dolls

3.53 of 5 stars 3.53  ·  rating details  ·  8,662 ratings  ·  1,266 reviews
An exciting new novel set in the "Chop Suey Circuit" of San Francisco right before World War II, from the beloved bestselling author of Snowflower and the Secret Fan and Shanghai Girls.

In 1938, Ruby, Helen and Grace, three girls from very different backgrounds, find themselves competing at the same audition for showgirl roles at San Francisco's exclusive "Oriental" nightcl
Hardcover, 376 pages
Published June 3rd 2014 by Random House
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I'm a Lisa See fan. I preordered this book. I'm kind of disappointed in it. Something about it just wasn't up to her usual standard. I never really understood why these three girls were friends. The only basis for that friendship seemed to be that they were all pretty, and that's it! Is that what the author intended? The jumping back and forth between narrators was disjointed - it didn't flow smoothly at all. And the actions of the characters didn't match what they were thinking, and what they w ...more
I am, by all accounts, a fairly voracious reader. I love books of a variety of genres and writing styles. I do, of course, have preferences and pet peeves. One thing I do enjoy in fiction books is an ending that ties up loose ends. While I appreciate a reader desiring to create their own version of a character's future, I highly value when an author delivers me to the end of the journey I embarked on when I cracked open the cover. And with certain novels, I become so intimate with characters and ...more
Nethra Ram
Perhaps I took too long to finish reading this book; perhaps the intervals led to me getting bored over the story, I don't know. I'll give the author the benefit of the doubt, seeing how many others have been captivated by this story.

The book traces the life of three female Chinese dancers (and a plethora of other characters) through their time together performing at night clubs, being friends, turning enemies and trying to figure it all out. For such a sparkling premise, I expected a moving tal
This is a story of three American "Oriental" girls (as they were called at the time) who meet by chance in San Francisco in the late 1930's while trying out as nightclub dancers on the outskirts of Chinatown. Each come from different backgrounds and the story centers around their friendship as it evolves and changes through the next ten years or so.

I honestly had trouble really liking this book. I found the writing somewhat mediocre and I really didn't care for any of the characters, even by th
Rebecca Foster
A sparkling wartime saga following three Asian-American girlfriends who meet in San Francisco’s Chinatown in 1938. As they grow closer, sharing apartments and gigs, the cardinal virtue of loyalty often seems at odds with the exigencies of stardom.

See vividly depicts the bawdy atmosphere of the semi-nude nightclubs where the ‘Chinese Fred Astaire’ and ‘Chinese Frank Sinatra’ got their start. She peoples her Chinatown settings with a mixture of fictional and historical characters (Ronald Reagan an
Oh. My. Great. Goodness....and breathe....

Lisa See has really outdone herself with this one. I'm not at sure if she shouldn't just put up her pen and call it a day.....this book was just so wonderful! I seriously wonder how she can ever top it....Most people if asked what this book was about would automatic reply with it's about some Chinese and Japanese girls in San Francisco at the time leading up to, during and after WWII....But it's not. To me, that's the whole point. This is a story about 3
I tried to give this two stars, but the more I think about it, the worse it seems, and I just don't think it deserves the second star. The premise was interesting, but I didn't enjoy this book at all.

When I read Song of the Silk Road , I thought it was just terrible, terrible writing. Now I wonder if it was a deliberate style, because I've read Lisa See's other books and the writing was beautiful—but why would she choose to write like this? I thought it might be that she wasn't good at writing
Being a huge fan of Lisa See, all I can say is that I'm sorry I had to give this 2 stars. The dialog between the girls doesn't seem like actual conversation, it just didn't work for me. These characters did not come alive to me as real women. And how they related to each other? Maybe it would be possible for their shared career path? Hoping that each chapter might get me interested in these women's outcomes, I stopped and started this book several times. But I never got imbedded in any outcomes ...more
This novel was definitely a miss for me. I guess nothing will live up to Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. The premise of the novel was promising (hence why I requested it for Early Reviewers) and I love the historical time period...BUT...these girls seem to despise each other. The early chapters are filled with rude remarks to each other (and snarky thoughts about each other); and then, to help the plotline along, since they have to be friends, the girls just think/say, "Well, we have to stick to ...more
I love Lisa See and I learned so much about Chinese American history and culture during WWII from this book. From that angle, I'm glad I read it. I never really engaged with the story or the characters. Lisa See threw every possible detail she uncovered in her research into these three women, and it often felt awkward or contrived. I began to feel like Ruby, Grace and Helen and the other minor characters existed only to provide a historical and cultural overview of the period. The book is well-r ...more
readinghearts (Lyn M)
Jun 09, 2014 readinghearts (Lyn M) rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Lisa See fans, those interested in Chinese American culture
Recommended to readinghearts (Lyn M) by: Edelweiss
Like many readers, my introduction to author Lisa See's work was with Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, and like most readers, I instantly fell in love. The book was beautifully written, the story was wonderful. Since reading Snow Flower, I have read most of the rest of Lisa See's work, and own copies of them all. To say that I am a fan of her work just doesn't quite say it all.

I recently read her new offering, China Dolls, and I am glad to say that I was not disappointed. China Dolls tells the s
Grace has been raised in the mid-west but finds herself in San Francisco when she runs away to escape from her abusive father. In her hometown, Grace has won numerous dance contests and dreams of being a big star, so San Francisco during the World Exposition of the late 1930's seems to be a great place to go, but Grace is told there is no openings for a Chinese girl so she makes her way to Chinatown where she meets and befriends Helen and Ruby. Together the three girls audition as dancers at The ...more
I am partial to historical fiction set in the 1940's that include WWII, and was really looking forward to reading this novel chosen by my local book-club, but it unfortunately fell short for me. The story does have an interesting and engaging start, but as I became more acquainted with the deceitful main protagonists, Grace, Irene, and Ruby, their "so-called" friendship just did not click; and despite the secrets not yet revealed, I just did not especially care about these three self-absorbed da ...more
Isabel Allende
As World War II begins, three friends find themselves competing for one showgirl role at San Francisco Chinatown’s exclusive nightclub The Forbidden City. Ruby is Japanese and desperate to pass as Chinese so she won’t be sent to a Japanese internment camp, Grace has fled her abusive Mid-western family, and Helen, who grew up in Chinatown, hides her own secret. The author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan beautifully explores the intricacies of friendship.
Rich in atmosphere and period details, Lisa See has reanimated pre-WWII San Francisco in the pages of this book, especially its nightlife, entertainment community, and Chinatown. Three determined, hard working, fun loving young women working as chorus line dancers narrate the story, and though they are best friends and all Asian in heritage their backgrounds are very different and they each have several layers of heart-rending secrets that are only gradually revealed.

When China Dolls opens in 1
Kristen McDermott
Lisa See's novels are always compellingly plotted and full of rich period detail, but I was less absorbed in this one than in her earlier books. Perhaps the mid-century showbiz slang her characters constantly use is one problem -- characters with a narrow vocabulary for expressing their inner emotional lives are just not that memorable. Another is the fact that the story of three nightclub performers who struggle with bigotry and relationship problems doesn't really have anywhere to go -- the bi ...more
Eileen Granfors
Lisa See's books teach as well as entertain. In her newest, CHINA DOLLS, she follows three young women in show business. Being Chinese-American put a stereotype upon each one of the friends, and each handles it differently.

In pre-war San Francisco, Grace tries to turn her Midwest dancing skills into a real career. The people doing the hiring see her only as someone who belongs on the freak street. She has much more to offer than showing some leg, and she can't go home again to her brutal father.
Lisa See is rapidly becoming one of my favorite authors, with her insightful, well-researched novels and her fascinating memoir. "China Dolls" is an excellent addition to her ouvre.

In this tale, we have Grace, Helen, and Ruby, all auditioning to dance at San Francisco's "Forbidden City" night club. Each of them has a secret she's keeping ... from the other two, but sometimes even hidden behind their own walls of denial. We see the young girls grown in friendship, through numerous challenges, and
I was very surprised Lisa See came out with this book. It is flat, plodding, and dull. I don't actually understand the story arc or ultimate point of the novel. I am a huge fan of “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” which is beautifully written, lush, and fascinating, but “China Dolls” is not a well put-together work – hard to believe it was written by the same author!

I found this book to be shallow reading based for pre-teens. The girls were shallow, giggly, and immature.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
CHINA DOLLS: A Novel, by Lisa See


"Every mile took me farther from Plain City, Ohio, where I'd been a flyspeck on the wallpaper of small-town life."—Grace, 'A Measly Girl,' page 9

Her ongoing proclivities to poke and probe the vagaries and inanities in the relationships between 'sisters'—of both flesh or friendship—notwithstanding, Lisa See is one of my favorite storytellers. Her writing can invoke nostalgia for times and places never experienced by the reader. I wasn't there
Mary (BookHounds)
Three women become fast friends while working as chorus girls in a nightclub in prewar San Francisco. Told in alternative viewpoints between, Helen, Ruby and Grace, these girls related how they become entertainers in China Town and the disadvantages each has to overcome. Each woman has an almost horrific background and as you learn more about them, you will end up rooting for them to success and how hard it is for women to be more than property, especially in Asian cultures.

Helen, is the "good g
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I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher Random House via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. The expected publication date is June 3, 2014.

This was an interesting read for me. Caught up in the glitz of the nightclub scene and the Chinatown showgirls before and during the wartime. It was fascinating to read about this era that I had no previous knowledge of.

The core of this story centralizes around Grace, Helen,
Maria Ulery
This is my first book by Lisa See and I thoroughly enjoyed it as I won it as an ARC from Shelf Awareness. I have not read anything about the Chinese or Japanese in this era from 1938-1945 and it was fictional but had some real historical data in it as well.

Ruby, Helen, and Grace meet up in San Francisco in 1938 in Chinatown area all 3 from different back grounds and family lives but they vow to become life long friends and have joined the dancing girls of the Chinese clubs during this time. Gra
Historical fiction is hard for me to like. I know just enough history to catch / suspect anachronisms. Frequently the author is using the historical period as a setting -- not a history lesson. Therefore, the characters have modern attitudes and / or the rebel against conventions of the times -- rather than exploring them.

I enjoyed Lisa See's previous books, but after 53 pages I had to surrender on this one. One character is Japanese. Another Asian character asks her if she is like a Negro who i
Rebecca Huston
I enjoyed this tale of three Chinese-American girls -- Grace, Helen and Ruby -- who start off as chorus girls in a nightclub in Chinatown. Each girl has plenty to hide, where not even a friendship can survive the horrors of WWII, and the prejudice of Americans. One section of the story is set in Topaz, Utah, which is one of the more horrible bits of our history. For anyone who wants an engaging tale set in San Francisco, with plenty of new things to learn, I happily recommend this one. Four star ...more
A chance encounter in San Francisco brings Grace, Helen and Ruby together and they become lifelong friends. This is a story of love & friendship bonded by the 1930's Chinese nightclub circuit and tested by war and racial divides.

I loved the historical elements and magnetic character development. This was my first Lisa See novel and I enjoyed her writing style tremendously. I'm looking forward to reading her previous novels, especially Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.
Laura Lee
I enjoyed Lisa See's new book, but couldn't give it a five stars. Just didn't seem up to her usual high standards, so to speak. Maybe 41/2 stars, but barely. She's one of my favorite authors so I feel as if I am betraying her if I give her less than five stars! But book seemed "easy", not the detailed plot she usually has. And it was pretty easy to "figure it out". Three young oriental women, who meet at a young age in San Francisco in 1938. They pretty much have the same desires in life and eac ...more
It can be fascinating to explore the changing mores of American culture through historical fiction, and when a gifted writer tackles this theme readers are in for a real treat. Lisa See’s latest novel, China Dolls is indeed a real delight, not only for her many fans, but for all readers of historical fiction. Opening in 1938 San Francisco the novel explores the lives of three “Oriental,” as they were called at the time, young girls. Grace Lee, an American born Chinese girl has run away from home ...more
I am a Lisa See fan. She writes historical fiction from a woman's perspective. The strength and importance of female relationships is the major theme in all of her works. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan captured my interests with the foot binding process and arranged marriages in 19th Century China. Shanghai Girls had me wanting to time travel to see Shanghai before the Japenese invasion. It did not make me want to experience the American immigration process and life. Dreams of Joy took me to Chi ...more
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Lisa See is a Chinese-American author. Her books include Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (2005), Dragon Bones, and On Gold Mountain. She was named the 2001 National Woman of the Year, by the Organization of Chinese American Women. She lives in Los Angeles.

More about Lisa See...
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan Shanghai Girls (Shanghai Girls #1) Dreams of Joy (Shanghai Girls #2) Peony in Love On Gold Mountain: The One-Hundred-Year Odyssey of My Chinese-American Family

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