Caroline's Reviews > Shanghai Girls

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
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Apr 20, 09

bookshelves: historical-fiction, read-in-2009
Read in April, 2009

When I first heard about the plot of this book, I was really excited by the setting of pre-World War II China and Shanghai, which it seems very few books actually deal with much. This was one of the best kind of historical fiction--education, and with a wonderful cast of characters and plot that really kept me addicted to learning the story of Pearl and May, two "beautiful girls" that grew up in Shanghai but have to leave when the Japanese invade to join their husbands in America.

I loved the two sisters--both are very unique from each other, and have to face different struggles during their escape from China and handle their difficulties in quite different ways. They're both strong women, and I really had a hard time putting this down at night!

The supporting cast of characters is wonderful, especially Pearl and May's mother. It was great to see how strong she was, after her daughters dismiss her as being too old-fashioned at the beginning of the novel (she even has bound feet, which neither of her daughters have). Their mother is an interesting contrast between the new China and the old China, but at the same time they're a lot the same.

The commentary of Hollywood involving the Chinese during this period was fascinating. I remember once seeing The Good Earth, and thinking it was pretty ludicrous that Katherine Hepburn was playing a Chinese woman, but it was such a different world back then, and this novel really helps portray just how different it was and how much the Chinese were discriminated against. It was a pretty sad reality--Americans were fascinated by Chinese culture, but when it came to actual Chinese people they didn't want anything to do with them. I loved watching both Pearl and May dealing with this problem in different ways--Pearl becoming more and more of a traditional Chinese woman, and May becoming more of an American to try and fit into society.

I hope readers will give it more of a chance than some did to Peony in Love, which seemed to suffer from coming after the phenomenal success of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and readers were expecting another story the same. While some of the themes are similar, this is definitely its own story and I loved it for that.
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Reading Progress

04/13/2009 page 1
0.32% "Snagged and Advance Reader's copy of this. I'm very excited to start this!"
04/14/2009 page 29
9.39% "I'm liking the change of setting on this, pre-WWII when there's a lot of change goign on in China. Very interesting!"
04/16/2009 page 86
27.83% "I'm loving Pearl as a protagonist!"
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