This book was of an interesting subject in an interesting time, but I can't say that I really connected with the characters too much. The story takes...moreThis book was of an interesting subject in an interesting time, but I can't say that I really connected with the characters too much. The story takes place as the Japanese invaded Hong Kong. Hong Kong itself has always interested me - not only because it's part of China, but also because it's such a hodgepodge of nationalities and sections - truly a melting pot.
However, the characters were one dimensional, too vague or too vibrant. The conversation was cutting and too...borgeouis? condescending? It was about the super rich dealing with war. How interesting is that? There were interesting characters, but you never really got to know them.
This will probably be a book that I re-read for the interest in the location and timeframe, but not necessarily because I miss the characters.
It was a good book overall, definitely worthy of 3 to 3.5 stars.(less)
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...moreI'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 story. *******
Lisa See's new book (which I've been waiting for since her website mentioned that it was coming out months ago) does what she does best - writing about the relationships of people and the ups and downs of life long relationships. Whether it's best friends/lao tong (Snow Flower and the Secret Fan), husbands and wives (the Red Princess mystery series), a teenager's relationship with her parents (Peony in Love), Lisa has a rare ability to wrench your heart with the unbelievably powerful feelings that these relationships evoke in our lives.
She certainly did this in Shanghai Girls - this time with sisters who grew up in modern pre-WWII Shanghai, and who because of the war are forced to make huge changes in their lives for which they are entirely unprepared.
We read this story through the eyes of Pearl, the older, smarter, less attractive sister, and how she goes through her days protecting her sister, and trying to harness the sibling rivalry that always exists between them. The tension slowly grows and grows throughout the book, until the end, where if you know Lisa See books, then you know what's coming.
The reason that I gave this book three stars is because I felt that after the explosion of emotions, there was no resolution. It was too abrupt of an ending, and I felt like the characters were lost to me before it was time for them to go. I understand why Lisa ended the book where she did chronologically (it would have required some serious additional writing, and I bet the publishers wouldn't have allowed an 800 pg book) but I wish that they had. Where is my coda?
I will read it again, and enjoy it from the perspective of one who knows what's coming, but I can't say that it's my favorite Lisa See novel.(less)
So disappointing - this book has received rave reviews, and received nothing but 5 stars on Amazon. Even good reads has it at 4.57 stars, but it's com...moreSo disappointing - this book has received rave reviews, and received nothing but 5 stars on Amazon. Even good reads has it at 4.57 stars, but it's completely unreadable.
The major flaw here is the fact that there are no quotations around what people are saying - and there's a lot of saying one thing and thinking another.
There are too many characters, and the story is told from each person's ownperspective, but again, I can't follow the thoughts and words because there's no differentiation - and because of that I can't empathize or identify with any of them. The book is not linear, it's like a meandering stream that I can't see or follow.
I've been reading this book for a week, and I'm on page 91. What does that say?
It's completely unreadable. I will never finish it or pick it up again.(less)
This is a fictional, based on a true story book about the Chinese painter, Pan Yuliang. She had an interesting history as she was sold into the sex tr...moreThis is a fictional, based on a true story book about the Chinese painter, Pan Yuliang. She had an interesting history as she was sold into the sex trade at a young age and found a way to develop herself from that low launching pad.
The things that I liked about this book were the character's focus and desire to fight for the things that she felt was inherently right - even when it embarassed or hurt the people who cared about her. As the child of a (future famous) painter, I also loved the way the scenes of her painting were told - of the turpentine smell, and the drop clothes, and the scattered mess of sketch book pads, and paint supplies. It reminded me of serepticiously watching my dad paint.
Still, compared to some of the books that I've read, this one just didn't meet the mark. It was enjoyable, yes, but not riveting. It was a book I actually could put down. There were no gaping holes, no problems, but it just wasn't excellent. It was good.
I will probably read this book again, but it will be during a "bored" phase.(less)
Wow - a surprisingly good book that was a complete impulse buy while waiting for my Dad at the airport.
This was the story of a daughter of a woman wh...moreWow - a surprisingly good book that was a complete impulse buy while waiting for my Dad at the airport.
This was the story of a daughter of a woman who was a scholar in the early 1900's, whose life was hard, but courage was stronger. It was a very interesting blend of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, People of the Fire (Tanager), The Piano Teacher, and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.
It could almost be two complete books that are connected, but I'm glad that I got the full story of Li Xia and Siu Sing in one sitting.
The dialogue was sometimes overly flowery - in the way of the old chinese, and also at points full of mystique and a touch fanciful, but the book was driving the whole time, and you had no chance but to care for the main characters and their battles through life.
A solid four star book, and it is a welcome addition to my collection. I can't wait to read it again.(less)
This book was appallingly fascinating, but I could not get more than halfway through the book because it gave me horrible nightmares. Mao really was a...moreThis book was appallingly fascinating, but I could not get more than halfway through the book because it gave me horrible nightmares. Mao really was an awful and twisted human being.(less)
This is the story of Jung Chang, the author, as well as her mother, and her grandmother. It's fascinating because of the cha...moreOne of my favorite books.
This is the story of Jung Chang, the author, as well as her mother, and her grandmother. It's fascinating because of the changes that have taken place over the last three generations of women in China. They went from foot binding to communism, to capitalism in quick succession.
Jung Chang's story is very powerful. You learn a LOT about the beginning of the communist revolution, and the impact that the programs like the Great Leap Forward, and the Five Virtues actually had on the people. It's a stunning memoir of how Mao was able to get 70,000,000 neighbors to kill each other in peace time.
If you have any desire to learn about the true Chinese people in the modern world, this is a must read, to understand what they have been through.(less)
Utterly and completely unreadable. This is based on the life of Easern Jewel, Yoshiko Kawashi, who was a cold and heartless ______ (feel free to fill...moreUtterly and completely unreadable. This is based on the life of Easern Jewel, Yoshiko Kawashi, who was a cold and heartless ______ (feel free to fill in the blank, they are all true). Not only could I not relate to this character, but her calculating and careless destruction of other people's live sickened me.
The author was trying to write from this woman's perspective, which must have been quite a challange, but the way the "character" thought about things just - it just wasn't human.
I'll never ever read this again. I got about halfway through and just tossed it.(less)
This is the true story of Wong Jade Snow, the fifth daughter of a chinese family, who was born and raised in Chinat...moreAnother good book from my neighbor.
This is the true story of Wong Jade Snow, the fifth daughter of a chinese family, who was born and raised in Chinatown, San Francisco. The story was told in an unusual third person, because she spoke of her family - Daddy, Mother, Prosperity, with first person knowledge, but referred to herself as Jade Snow throughout. It took a little bit to get used to, but once you were in the story was very interesting.
The story starts when she is quite young, and shows the clear differences between life and expectations at home vs. with the "foreigners" (I thought this term was classic, since they were living in San Francisco). She is a dedicated young learner, though as her brother says she has no creativity or personality, but takes that drive and shows them all that she is not only a valuable part of the family, but that she can be a success in her own way. Without her family's support, she put herself through college, worked successfully for teh Navy during WWII, and started her own business, which allowed her to write this book.
I think it was most interesting because it was a true story, and she wrote about her life from a perspective that showed the depth of other people's feelings as well as her own.
Peony in Love is the story of Peony, a girl during the Qing Dynasty, who falls in love with the opera The Peony Pavilions (a chinese Romeo and Juliet)...morePeony in Love is the story of Peony, a girl during the Qing Dynasty, who falls in love with the opera The Peony Pavilions (a chinese Romeo and Juliet), and the impact of the opera on her life and afterlife.
What I love about this novel are the details provided of dealing with and being a ghost in the Chinese culture. I also love that even after she dies, she doesn't immediately know everything, but still has to try to solve her life and family puzzle.
As with all Lisa See novels, there are emotional swells, and deep characterization that allows you really experience Peony's world.(less)