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Shanghai Girls (Shanghai Girls #1)

3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  107,952 Ratings  ·  8,336 Reviews
In 1937 Shanghai—the Paris of Asia—twenty-one-year-old Pearl Chin and her younger sister, May, are having the time of their lives. Both are beautiful, modern, and carefree—until the day their father tells them that he has gambled away their wealth. To repay his debts, he must sell the girls as wives to suitors who have traveled from Los Angeles to find Chinese brides. As J ...more
Hardcover, 309 pages
Published May 26th 2009 by Random House (first published 2009)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Feb 23, 2009 Larry rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: lisa-see
Lisa’s See’s new novel, Shanghai Girls, provides a rich experience for its readers – taking them from the splendor, highlife, glamour and poverty of 1937 Shanghai to the struggles of Chinese immigrants to survive a virtual internment on Angel Island, off the coast of San Francisco, to the almost impossible challenges of trying to build a life in Los Angeles Chinatown in the context of an America that does not want them and treats them cruelly.

But despite its rich background, Shanghai Girls is ul
Eileen Souza
Jun 05, 2011 Eileen Souza rated it really liked it
I'm re-rating this book up to 4 stars, but with the contingency that it must be read with Dreams of Joy. When read in conjunction with the second book, this book is excellent - really emotionally powerful. Without the second book, you'll be horribly disappointed with the the last 20 pages - and wishing for 350 more. my original review is still below.

Re-reading 5/2011 in prep for the second book Dreams of Joy. In retrospect, my review is fairly prophetic. I'm so glad there's more to the s
Jun 03, 2009 Jeff rated it it was ok
I have to say that writing this review actually pains me. I love Lisa See and I respect her artistry and her unique narrative voice. I’ve enjoyed all of her books and I truly wanted to love "Shanghai Girls." Unfortunately, though, I found this to be a rather lackluster novel.

Lisa’s writing, as always, flows beautifully. Her characters are complex and her grasp of Asian cultural mores is astounding. I wish I could pinpoint exactly what didn’t "work" for me, but the novel, as a whole, seemed long
Lyn (Readinghearts)
Sep 09, 2010 Lyn (Readinghearts) rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lynne, Donna, Cam, Leslye, Mary
I fell in love with Lisa See's writing a few years ago when I read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. As such, I was really looking forward to reading Shanghai Girls when it came out. Initially though, people began saying that it did not compare. So it was with trepidation that I began reading this book, afraid that I would be disappointed. THAT DID NOT HAPPEN. All I can say is that Lisa See has another hit on her hands with this wonderful story of two sisters who emigrate from Shanghai to America ...more
Kelly Ohl
Jun 25, 2009 Kelly Ohl rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 15, 2016 Elyse rated it it was amazing
I can't believe I didn't write a review on this Lisa See book.
This is one of my favorite historical books she wrote. There is a fascinating story in here that many people know very little about!

The plot revolves around two sisters -their privilege life breaks down - 1930's Shanghai -
Their father sell them to loveless marriages --
The 'history' of horrific prejudice & immigration - coming to America was no joke.

After I had read this ( not light and fluffy),
a front page article in our local
Aug 11, 2009 Janice rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 27, 2009 Louise rated it it was ok
There's a phrase in Chinese, chi ku (eat bitterness), which Lisa See's Shanghai Girls exemplifies perfectly. From one end of the book to the other, there's nothing but hardships and heartaches.

The first hardship I found is not actually in the story in the novel, but comes from the novel itself. See writes in the first person through the voice of Pearl, a girl growing up in Shanghai during the volatile Sino-Japanese war. Unfortunately, Pearl seems too self-aware of other people's thoughts, motive
Nov 09, 2009 Sasha rated it did not like it
I'm sorry to say that I thought this book was horrible. As a huge fan of Snowflower and the Secret Fan and of the beautiful characters, beautifully described scenery, tragedies, hardships, and the deep bonds between the characters within it, I went into this book hoping for something of the same. I felt the character development in this book was forced, I thought the story was all over the place, and there was never and deep understanding of the people within it. Maybe it's because I never ident ...more
Kim Wright
May 22, 2010 Kim Wright rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 15, 2010 J.Elle rated it it was ok
This was the third book I've read by this author and I'm still confused as to my feelings for her writing. The first book I read, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, I loved. I think it was all the descriptions and information about the cultural nuances, including foot binding. Then, I was excited to read, Peony in Love, until I actually started it. Then, I thought maybe this book would turn the tide either way. Unfortunately, I'm still ambivalent. It was an interesting enough story: two "modern" si ...more
Good, solid read. Strong storytelling. She's clever to have kept mentioning that the girls' English was 'perfect' because this helped with voice authenticity. Otherwise, the narrative would have seemed too Americanized. On the other hand, I felt let down by the last quarter of the book, and completely nonplussed by the ending. It all felt rushed, as if she was running to the end, and not entirely believable. In fact, I DIDNT's believe it! It just doesn't seem real that in the 1950s a young Chine ...more
Aug 21, 2010 Praj rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 女性
Lisa See brings out my finest emotions. The array of words is sown deep in my mind without the fear of being uprooted. I have a younger sister; never liked when she was born. I was extremely envious of her robbing all the parental attention. Over the years through our subtle rivalries and treacherous fights we grew closer and protective of each other. Although she is four years younger than me, I feel maternal towards her, trying every possible way to shelter her happiness and smile. I do not be ...more
Sep 09, 2010 Cynthia rated it it was ok
I have really mixed feelings about this book, it's almost like the book is horrible and beautiful at the same time. The book is told from the perspective of the oldest of two beautiful Chinese sisters growing up in Shanghai during the 1930's. They live a pampered life until suddenly their father loses everything and sells them as brides to two young men from America to repay a debt. The book follows the sisters as they are forced to flee from their native country and find refuge in the home of t ...more
Sep 23, 2010 Denice rated it liked it
This book had so many twists and turns, I read it practically in one sitting. All in all, I was entertained!

However, the writing style didn't seem authentic to me. Even though the book is mostly set in the early-mid 20th century, the narrator seems to speak to the reader in modern discourse, and every once in a while, a dialog is peppered with typical phrases of the times. Worse than that, is how forced all of the historical details are sewn into the story. It was sort of like having a conversa
Oct 14, 2010 Kate rated it liked it
This is the second Lisa See novel that I've read, and both times when I've finished her books I've felt vaguely duped. There's so much historical detail in here, much of it grim, that I feel like I must be reading something sweeping and important. But the character-driven parts of the plot (often about tensions and jealousies in close female relationships) remind me more of...Danielle Steel, maybe? Dare I say it? Something kind of primal and potboiler-y and not too nuanced. So and so is the pret ...more
Spider the Doof Warrior
Aug 26, 2015 Spider the Doof Warrior rated it really liked it
This book is good, but why is it that folks don't TELL each other stuff? Is it because it makes for a better story? You get a climax when folks find out EVERYTHING in a gush of anger and such.
It' can't be healthy.

I still like this book, but I need to add the fact that does old school China HAVE to be so sad?
Even in the US these poor women get such a raw deal, especially Pearl. Her life sucked the most! All that stuff happens to her in Shanghai, they are practically enslaved by that old man. They
May 01, 2011 عَلْيَا rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
العمل الروائيّ الطويل \ المتماسك \ المشوّق حتى آخر حرف لا يتأتّى لأي روائي ؛ وإن حصل فإنه لا يتكرر مرتين متتاليني!!
فتاتان من شنغهاي ثاني عمل روائي أقرأه للكاتبة الجميلة ليزا سي وثاني عمل أنبهر به لاختلافه وروعة سرده ..
في عملها الأول ركزت على الصين كوطن لكن في العمل الثاني ركزت على الصين كبلد مهجّر لأبنائه لأسباب اقتصادية \ سياسية في الفترة التي سبقت استيلاء الشيوعيين وحكومة ماو تسي على أجزاء كبيرة منها ..
وبما أن الكاتبة أمريـ\صينيّة فقد برعت في كشف الكثير عن الصينيين في بلاد المهجر..

خمسة أن
Helen Dunn
Aug 17, 2011 Helen Dunn rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Linda Smith
Aug 08, 2011 Linda Smith rated it it was ok
This book was very disappointing. I went into it eager to learn about this point in history and this should have been a good book considering the premise of the story. I think it started out well and the family and events in China held my interest and seemed well-defined. Still, the tragedies never felt that compelling, and even what should have outraged me when they arrived in the US, never had the impact they would have if better written. I should have gotten angry, I should have cried, I shou ...more
Jun 03, 2012 Caitlin rated it it was ok
I picked this one up per a friend's suggestion. I love works of well-crafted historical fiction and a woman in Barnes & Noble said that I might enjoy the novel if I liked Memoirs of a Geisha (one of my absolute favorites).

I had never read any of Lisa See's other works. With Shanghai Girls, she clearly did her homework. There are plenty of authenticating details and the novel touches upon interesting aspects of Chinese/American history that I feel not many would know much about otherwise.

Sep 23, 2012 Dem rated it liked it
Shanaghai Girls a novel by Lisa See tells the story of twenty one year old Pearl Chin and her younger sister May . Both girls are modern and carefree living in 1937 shanaghai the Paris of Asia until the day their father tells them that he has gambled away their wealth and that to repay his debts he must sell the girls as wives to suitors who have travelled from Los Angeles to find Chinese brides. As Japanese bombs fall on their beloved city Pearl and may set out on a journey of a lifetime.

This b
Elizabeth Craig
Dec 21, 2012 Elizabeth Craig rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People who like asian literature, culture, and dynamic stories.
I really loved this book, it's one of my favorites and a must-read if you like asian literature. Lisa See builds a great story that spans over the 18 or so years that this novel takes place. At the beginning Pearl and May seem like rebellious teenage girls but soon have to grow up into young independent women because of their father's mistakes. Through all their hardships Pearl and May maintain that strong sisterly bond but, as any pair of sisters, they know how to get on each other's nerves and ...more
Sarah ~
Feb 04, 2014 Sarah ~ rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012-reads

من الصعب التعبير عن هذه الرواية بالكلمات ..
فهي طويلة جدا ..
الرواية من ثلاثة أقسام .
1- القدر
2- الحظ
3- المصير

وعبارة عن سرد لحياة كاملة .. عبر ثلاثة أجيال ..
للأختين بيرل وماي.
ولاحقا ( ابنتهما ) جوي
تبدأُ أحداثٌ الرواية في العامْ 1937 م وحتى الستينيات ..
لن أستطيع ان اكتب أكثر من هذا فالرواية لن يكفيها مراجعة واحدة ..
فهي طويلة جدا..
تقترب من 500 صفحة

ومليئة بالتفاصيل والتواريخ حيث نرى حياة الشقيقتين وعائلة السيد لوي اليومية..
جنبا إلى جنب مع أخبار الحرب العالمية والصراعات بين الصين واليابان والصين
Emory Russo
Jul 15, 2013 Emory Russo rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviewed
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ashley *Hufflepuff Kitten*
I really enjoyed this peek into Chinese culture and history. For Ed's peace of mind, there are a few instances of tragedy porn a la Kite Runner, but I found this book rather more enjoyable.

It covers Pearl and May's lives growing up in Shanghai, where they don't have to worry about much until their father basically sells them as wives for another man's sons in order to pay off his gambling debts. Amid this, the second Sino-Japanese War is going on, and it takes everything they have in order to g
Melissa ♥ Dog Lover ♥ Martin

OMG! These girls dad sucks! This reminds me of one of her other books with the father!



I liked the story, it did kind of remind me of Snow Flower And The Secret Fan in ways, but I liked that book a lot better.

I can't put my finger on what I didn't love about this book, I guess it just seemed to drag a little bit for me. I have to admit that I almost threw the book when I got to t
Aug 26, 2015 Nikoleta rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
Ένα καλογραμμένο ιστορικό μυθιστόρημα, για ένα θέμα που για να πω την αλήθεια δεν είχα ξαναδιαβάσει. Τις δυσκολίες που βίωσαν οι κινέζοι από τον πόλεμο, την προσφυγιά κ.α. Ήταν ωραία γραμμένο, με ρεαλιστική πένα. Αυτό όμως που δεν μου άρεσε ήταν οι ήρωες, δεν μπόρεσα να συνδεθώ μαζί τους, δεν μου το επέτρεψε η ίδια η αφήγηση που δεν ήταν αρκετά συναισθηματική -αν και γραμμένη στο πρώτο προσωπο- αλλά ίσως και οι προσωπικότητες που τους έδωσε, ίσως πάλι να φταίει η πολιτισμική διαφορά που με έκανε ...more
Carol Brill
Oct 07, 2015 Carol Brill rated it really liked it
A saga with well-developed characters and a strong sense of place, set In pre-world war II Shanghai. Sisters, May and Pearl, work as beautiful girl calendar models. They live comfortably until their father gambles away the family possessions to a Chinese American mob-like business man. To repay his debt, he "sells" his daughters into arranged marriages with the business man's sons. As China is invaded, Pearl and May flee for the dangerous journey to America. They encounter brutality that a few t ...more
Nov 29, 2015 Connie rated it liked it
Shelves: audible-cd, nov-2015
See has once again grabbed my attention with her detail of a time and culture I knew little about and creating characters that I come to care about. Her writing is so easy that it is not difficult to immerse myself in her stories of a culture foreign to me.

This story follows Pearl and May who we meet as privelaged and spoiled beautiful girls of glittery Shanghai. Naive and so unaware of the political turmoil of their country and the bad choices of their father they are set up in arranged marri
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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...

Other Books in the Series

Shanghai Girls (2 books)
  • Dreams of Joy (Shanghai Girls #2)

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“May and I are sisters. We'll always fight, but we'll always make up as well. That's what sisters do: we argue, we point out each other's frailties, mistakes, and bad judgment, we flash the insecurities we've had since childhood, and then we come back together. Until the next time. ” 169 likes
“We hug, but there are no tears. For every awful thing that's been said and done, she is my sister. Parents die, daughters grow up and marry out, but sisters are for life. She is the only person left in the world who shares my memories of our childhood, our parents, our Shanghai, our struggles, our sorrows, and, yes, even our moments of happiness and triumph. My sister is the one person who truly knows me, as I know her. The last thing May says to me is 'When our hair is white, we'll still have our sister love.” 146 likes
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