This ambitious Lisa See novel follows the lives of three women: Grace, Ruby, and Helen over a span of 10 years. Grace is the youngest and most innocenThis ambitious Lisa See novel follows the lives of three women: Grace, Ruby, and Helen over a span of 10 years. Grace is the youngest and most innocent one coming to San Francisco to make it as a show girl and fleeing from a troubled family life; Ruby is also set on making it big, she's the opposite of Grace, with a lot of boyfriends and admirers, however, she's really a Japanese girl pretending to be Chinese; Helen is a former traditional Chinese woman, the oldest of the three, who lives with her extended family in a compound. The three seem unlikely friends but bond over their lives as show girls on the Chinese stage in America.
The historical part of this novel is really interesting. I didn't know about the Chinese clubs in America in the 1930s/40s. It's a topic that I haven't seen covered too much. See really did her homework well and it shows in the book. One can really learn a lot about the Chinese nightclub scene from reading this. I felt that See really captured the time period well.
Each chapter is told from the perspective of one of the girls. This is a classic See way of writing and I really appreciate it in her books because it's so unique. However, there was a whole couple chapters where one woman, Helen, wasn't talking and I missed her. I yearned for a bit more depth to the characters whose motives I sometimes didn't understand...I wanted to get more inside their heads even more and see why they changed as they grew in stardom and what caused it.
While the book is definitely a page turner and the characters are interesting, I can't say that I loved them at the end of the book. Their friendship seemed to endure even though they betrayed and backstabbed each other. Maybe that's show business or life but I found them to be a little too forgiving of each other. Be prepared for very strong and yet, flawed women.
The book is soap opera-esque with lots of surprises and secrets revealed and yet, it is mixed into a history lesson, not an easy task for an author but See definitely pulls it off well.