Michael's Reviews > Dreams of Joy

Dreams of Joy by Lisa See
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's review
Aug 20, 2011

did not like it
Read in August, 2011

If you want to read/understand about China without it being 'helped' (all pun intended towards "The Help") along by strange, stilted "orientalist" notions of how it used to be in the old times, this would NOT be the book/series to read.

As an articulate asian (from Singapore), it pains me to read such trash passing off as historic fiction/filtered through what are very much western eyes (doesn't matter if the writer knows Amy Tan or has See as a surname) and targeted to what are clearly western notions of how people behaved in China. This novel just brings back horrible memories of watching Pearl S Buck's "The Good Earth" acted by actors forced to be asian when clearly they're not.

Likewise, this novel is written in such a crude/sing-song fashion as to mock the very people it is trying to depict.

If one is to choose a clothing analogy, it's like Shanghai Tang trying to represent Chinese fashion.

This novel is a pastiche/travesty and shame on Bloomsbury for allowing such rubbish to be published.
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Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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Alicia How would you have preferred the Cultural Revolution to be portrayed?

Elizabeth Perhaps you have reviewed the wrong book? I found the book not to be culturally insensitive (no sing-song) and very much similar to the accounts of the Cultural Revolution related by individuals who experienced it.

Mary walker This is a book of fiction, remember.

Michael Totally, Mary but if you read novels by Ha Jin, it is possibly to retain a sense of reality. Perhaps I am just irritated by 'oriental' fiction where the writer hides behind what he/she thinks Asia might be instead of what they really are or maybe it's just the simplistic 'cute' way they write.

Erica Michael - What would you recommend for historical fiction set in China?

Marcie Thank you for recommending Ha Jin. I've been reading several of his book descriptions and am very interested in many of them. His list of books is quite extensive. Do you have one that you would recommend above all the others to start with?

Michael Hi Marcie,
I would suggest A Good Fall, his latest collection of short stories or if you prefer a novel, then try "Waiting"

Dorothy I am not too familiar with Asian culture and its history, so I would not dare to say what you have said in fear of being mistaken. Your review has proved that my hunch was correct and my feelings towards an americanized version of what communism in China looks like were not flawed. I was frustrated all through the 150 pages that I managed to read of the book. Thank you for your review. It is great to get a different opinion on the matter.

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