Julie's Reviews > Dreams of Joy

Dreams of Joy by Lisa See
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's review
May 26, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: fiction, own, first-reads
Read from May 23 to 26, 2011 — I own a copy

Not realizing that this book was a sequel to Shanghai Girls, I eagerly nabbed Dreams of Joy because I loved Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. Had I known, I would have definitely acquired a copy of Shanghai Girls and read it prior to Dreams of Joy. Regardless, I was still enamored with this book. I read a few plot summaries of Shanghai Girls and Dreams of Joy covered enough to keep me informed of what happened in the previous novel. Though I didn’t have an existing emotional connection to the characters, it didn’t take me long to form a bond with May, Pearl and Joy.

The story is told by Pearl and her daughter Joy, the chapters alternating between their first person perspectives. Headstrong Joy abandons her comfortable life in California after learning a shattering truth about her family (which apparently was revealed at the conclusion of Shanghai Girls) and makes her way to China to find her biological father. She is full of idealism and is anxious to assimilate herself into Chinese culture and assist with the country’s progress. Her initial optimism is crushed by Mao’s increasingly strict policies and her idealism is no match for the harshness of reality. Pearl’s desperation to find her daughter takes her back to Shanghai and she spends three years there hoping to reclaim Joy and get her back to the U.S.

This is an incredible portrait of Chinese life during The Great Leap Forward (1958-1961). It illustrates the difficulties of transitioning a former feudal society to collectivism and having the peasants adhere to this new way of life. Two things I found interesting were China’s desire to emulate Russia, and Mao’s encouragement of people to make lots of babies (since we’re now so used to the one-child policy). It was also a grim depiction of the great famine that struck the nation during this time due to ridiculous bureaucratic strategies. This resulted in desperate people taking very desperate measures, including cannibalism. Through Joy’s trials, Lisa See has skillfully reconstructed this tumultuous time in China’s history.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the Goodreads First Reads program.

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Reading Progress

05/24/2011 page 128

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Penny (Literary Hoarders) You MUST read Shanghai Girls. It's so wonderful....

Julie Planning on it first chance I get!

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