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Group Read Discussions > August/September Group Read: Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

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message 1: by Becky, Moddess (new)

Becky (Beckyofthe19and9) | 3220 comments Group read starts today! Remember to mark all spoilers please!


Jeanna Started it yesterday and am finding it hard to put down. I'll say nothing more but so far it is an amazing read.


Courtney | 23 comments I'm getting this novel from the goodread bookswap.


Zee | 95 comments I think I'm going to read the discussion when it gets going before I decide whether to buy the book. I'll be interested to see what people think.


Maggie (mmorrell) | 19 comments I've got it on hold at my library. It must be that someone from this group goes to my library!


Shomeret | 353 comments Maggie wrote: "I've got it on hold at my library. It must be that someone from this group goes to my library!"

That isn't necessarily the case, Maggie. It's a very popular book. It's also popular for book group discussions. I've already been through a discussion of Shanghai Girls on another group here on GR.


Heather (hsditto) I read Shanghai Girls last year and absolutely loved it. It was one of my favorite reads of the year. You guys are in for a real treat with this one. Enjoy!


Victoria_Grossack Grossack (VictoriaGrossack) | 601 comments It was a nice quick read (surprisingly quick, as the story ended at 91%). I must say that at first the voice sounded too modern to me - my experience with Chinese-set literature is extremely limited, Pearl S Buck and Amy Tan - and both of these authors manage to be more "inscrutable/other". Shanghai Girls is written in the present tense, which makes it even more immediate. So in the first couple of chapters I kept asking myself, when is this? The voice and the girls' attitudes and the tall buildings made it seem modern (Shanghai's buildings today are so tall and futuristic that it's like walking through a cartoon of the Jetsons). But other clues - the servants, the fact that Pearl had a sister, and the mother's feet - were indications of a much earlier time. I like the fact that See only told us later.

I must say that the narrator was pretty unperceptive. But I really enjoyed the book. And I loved how many people were lying! It makes me wonder how much of my own family history is true.


Heidi | 8 comments I'm starting this book tonight -- I liked "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" a good deal, so I'm optimistic that this one will be enjoyable as well.


Jeanna I finished it today and I have to say that it was breathtaking. I loved it. I don't want to say anything else until the discussion gets going but I hope everyone enjoys it as much as I did. It's definitely going on my favorites shelf.


Christina St Clair (Christina777) | 18 comments I loved Shanghai Girls. I read it on my Kindle. I loved it so much, and the sequel, Dreams of Joy, that I contacted Lisa See to tell her how marvelous I found her work, and how much I had learned. She graciously responded.


Jeanna Christina wrote: "I loved Shanghai Girls. I read it on my Kindle. I loved it so much, and the sequel, Dreams of Joy, that I contacted Lisa See to tell her how marvelous I found her work, and how much I had learned...."

Oh I didn't know there was a sequel! I have got to put that on my to-read list. I am so happy to know that the story doesn't end at the end of "Shanghai Girls!"


Sarah | 1 comments Just started reading it last night, her descrptions of life in Shanghai are amazing. I can't put it down.


message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

I just started it. I love Lisa See's writing style. It's so easy to get engrossed in the story right away.


Amelie | 86 comments ive just started and the writing is very engaging. the young ladies are oh-so materialistic but even from the little i know of chinese history i have to think things will change very soon...


message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

Up to page 70 or through the chapter "moon sisters"

(view spoiler)


Maggie (mmorrell) | 19 comments This will be one of my favorite books. I will read all of Lisa See's bookks


message 18: by [deleted user] (last edited Aug 24, 2011 10:56AM) (new)

Up to page 110 (middle of chapter "Isle of the Immortals")

(view spoiler)


Janice (JaMaSc) I finished reading the book last night and look forward to the discussion. This is a great book club selection because there are so many things to discuss.

When does the discussion start?


message 20: by Jackie, That's Her Constableness to you! (new)

Jackie (TheNightOwl) | 2684 comments It has already started Janice. You can use this thread to post your thoughts, discussion questions, etc. and just wait for people to respond. We don't have a discussion leader in the group, but feel free to take the lead and let us know what want to discuss.


Janice (JaMaSc) The first thing that struck me about the book was that it is written in present tense. It took me a few pages to focus on the story and not the tense.

I think present tense feels a bit discordant, which suited the story. How do you feel about books written in this style?


message 22: by Meera (last edited Aug 25, 2011 05:21AM) (new)

Meera Janice wrote: "I think present tense feels a bit discordant, which suited the story. How do you feel about books written in this style?"

I'm only on page 81, just finished chapter "Eating Wind...". I hadn't really noticed the tense so I guess it didn't bother me. I probably will notice it when I get back to it today. I am bothered by the characters. The sisters seem very spoiled, selfish and ignorant so far. (view spoiler) I'm hoping that the sisters become more mature as the story goes on.


Heidi | 8 comments I just finished the book this afternoon. I very much enjoyed it, but I'm still a little conflicted as to how to rate it. I also have no idea how to do the hide spoilers thing, so I don't want to put anything that will ruin the story for those who are still reading!


message 24: by Jackie, That's Her Constableness to you! (new)

Jackie (TheNightOwl) | 2684 comments Heidi, the spoiler tag is:

[spoiler] Insert text here [/spoiler]

Instead of [] use < > to close out the command.


message 25: by Heidi (last edited Aug 25, 2011 10:52AM) (new)

Heidi | 8 comments Thank you Jackie!

I really enjoyed reading the book as I said, but it left me feeling a bit frustrated. I loved the amount of detail that Lisa See managed to work in to a relatively short work, I loved the way she really gives a flavor of the time, but the last 50 pages or so just left me feeling like there was much more to be said. (view spoiler)


message 26: by [deleted user] (new)

There is a sequel to this book Dreams of Joy. I didn't read your spoiler since I still have a few pages left, but I wasn't sure you knew about the sequel. =D


message 27: by [deleted user] (new)

Meera wrote: "Janice wrote: "I think present tense feels a bit discordant, which suited the story. How do you feel about books written in this style?"

I'm only on page 81, just finished chapter "Eating Wind..."..."


Meera, regarding your spoiler (view spoiler)


message 28: by [deleted user] (new)

Heidi wrote: "Thank you Jackie!

I really enjoyed reading the book as I said, but it left me feeling a bit frustrated. I loved the amount of detail that Lisa See managed to work in to a relatively short work, I..."


The ending (view spoiler)

Awesome book! I really enjoyed it.


Victoria_Grossack Grossack (VictoriaGrossack) | 601 comments Janice wrote: "The first thing that struck me about the book was that it is written in present tense. It took me a few pages to focus on the story and not the tense.

I think present tense feels a bit discorda..."


Janice, I wrote earlier that the present tense made it more immediate, and so modern at first that I had trouble identifying the time period. At first I was wondering why this was a group read in a historical fiction group, but there were a few hints letting us know it was an earlier time.


Janice (JaMaSc) Victoria, I saw your comment and was going to reply to it, but I hadn't finished the book and I wasn't sure that the discussion had begun. I thought maybe people were stating initial impressions.

I knew from the reviews I had read, from the back of the book ("In 1937 Shanghai..."), and from the cover, that the book was set during that the so I didn't get that same sense of displacement.

I know of one person who will not read novels written in present tense. I would hate to have missed out on this book.


Victoria_Grossack Grossack (VictoriaGrossack) | 601 comments The back of the book! Harder to see when you're reading off a Kindle.


Janice (JaMaSc) I'm hoping more will be revealed about the relationship between the sisters in the sequel, Dreams of JoyDreams of Joy. Perhaps it will come from Joy's perspective instead of the two sisters.

(view spoiler)


message 33: by [deleted user] (new)

Janice wrote: "I'm hoping more will be revealed about the relationship between the sisters in the sequel, Dreams of JoyDreams of Joy. Perhaps it will come from Joy's perspective ins..."

Janice, I had a lot of the same thoughts you posted in the spoiler about May. I like that she's complex and her motives are unclear. I hope Lisa does explore that more in the sequel.


Dee Burns | 3 comments Loved Lisa See's books (Secret Fan, Peony, Shanghai) but was deeply disappointed in Dreams of Joy. It did not seem the same writer almost - was flat, lacking in mystery.


message 35: by [deleted user] (new)

Dee wrote: "Loved Lisa See's books (Secret Fan, Peony, Shanghai) but was deeply disappointed in Dreams of Joy. It did not seem the same writer almost - was flat, lacking in mystery."

Oooo...I'm getting it from the library...glad I didn't buy the hardback until I've read it myself and can decide. I love the other books I've read by her, so I just thought it'd be great too.


Amelie | 86 comments have finished. liked it alot although i would have liked more of it to take place in shanghai. thanks for the warning about drams of joy, dee.


Janice George(JG) | 12 comments I read (and loved) this book for another group last year. Here are some of my comments from that discussion (none of these comments are actual spoilers):

As to the questions about the sisters, I thought Pearl's observation about sisters (or all siblings of any age) as always being compared to each other was a dead center truth.

The beautiful-girl posters & the wonderfully detailed description of the girls getting ready for their sitting piqued my curiosity -- and yes, there were just such advertising posters made in Shanghai in the 1930's.

Here is a site that sells copies of them:
http://www.zitantique.com/poster.html

------------------------

I was surprised to learn of the cultural ritual of lai see -- the collection of jewelry and money and other gifts at the wedding feast which are to belong only to the wife, so that she can have her own money/valuables to use as she sees fit. I think this is a very civilized idea coming from a culture that had only recently stopped binding women's feet to keep them in control.

------------------------

I would bet money that Lisa See had an agenda, and that her agenda was to impress readers, especially lo fan, with the plight of "otherness" in white-owned America, and how damaging and/or dangerous it can be to remain complacent,ignorant, or misinformed about the situation.

According to Lisa See's comments at the end of the book, her family did in fact own the equivalent of old man Louie's curio shop in China City, where they remained until the 70's when they moved the (still thriving) store to Pasadena.

Here is Lisa See's cousin, Leslee Leong, owner of the F. Suie One Co. store, talking about the history of the store:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRl085...

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I laughed when Pearl mentions the sign posted by the cash register :
ANY RESEMBLANCE TO LOOKING JAPANESE IS PURELY OCCIDENTAL

I suppose the problem will go away when the differences don't matter anymore.

----------------------

Lastly, here is a link to the short review I did of Shanghai Girls

http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...

My apologies for the length of this post.


message 38: by [deleted user] (new)

I loved Snowflower and Peony but this book was so depressing.


Janice (JaMaSc) Jeannie wrote: "I loved Snowflower and Peony but this book was so depressing."

What specifically did you find depressing? Was it the ending?

Both Snowflower and Peony had definitive endings which gave one the "happy every after" feeling. Shanghai Girls did not have an ending because it will be continued in the sequel.


Janice (JaMaSc) I was a bit surprised by the treatment of the Chinese people by the American government. Lisa See painted the goverment as fearful of the infiltration of Communism.

If so, I'm not sure their method of offering citizenship to those Chinese who turned in other people would have been effective in keeping the Communists out.

Does anyone else have thoughts about the discrimination that the Chinese felt?


Diane S. | 738 comments I think they felt very discriminated against but I also think that in many ways this has benefited them. They started and thrived in their own made communities and many still do today. Of course they are more respected now than they were then but many still voluntarily live in their China towns. Every large city has one and they do pretty well financially. They did not, however, have it easy as immigrants, often given the worst jobs (building railroads) but they have managed to keep their cultures intact, which many immigrants have not. I highly respect the Asian people, they are very family oriented, respect the elderly and take care of each other. We could learn much from them.


message 42: by Amelie (last edited Aug 30, 2011 09:27AM) (new)

Amelie | 86 comments Diane wrote: "I think they felt very discriminated against but I also think that in many ways this has benefited them. They started and thrived in their own made communities and many still do today. Of course th..."

i think most immigrants have suffered from discrimination when they first arrive. having strong families helps ... what i liked in this book was how they created families out of remnants


Jeanna I learned a lot from this book about the way the Chinese were treated when they first came to the US that I had no idea about. I found that part of the book fascinating. I agree with the person who said that the book did lack a definitive ending. I hope that we learn more about the sisters and their fates in the sequel which is now on my to-read list!.

Also to the person up-thread that posted the link to the beautiful girls posters, thanks! I wondered if those were actually used. I can't wait to look at them.


Diane S. | 738 comments I've read the second book and it concentrates more on the daughter but indirectly more on the sisters and their heritage in China. It is very good also.


Kris (krellis98) | 2 comments I've just joined this group and got this book from the library. I'm only on chapter 3 but I'm really enjoying it so far!


Rebecca I loved this book not as much as I loved Snow Flower though.
The movie didnt come to my town I was so mad. I look forward to reading Dreams of Joy.


message 47: by [deleted user] (new)

Rebecca wrote: "I loved this book not as much as I loved Snow Flower though.
The movie didnt come to my town I was so mad. I look forward to reading Dreams of Joy."


I liked Snow Flower better too! The movie didn't come to my town either. I'm hoping to see it at some point.


message 48: by Jo (new)

Jo (jojodancer62) | 3 comments I agree; it was very sad.


marie | 1 comments I've had a copy of this book lying around for over a year now and actually joined this group when I saw you were reading it together. I just finished Dreams of Joy which is actually the sequel. I'm very happy to get into Shanghai Girls. Started last week but then had to put it down only a few pages in. I will definitely get back to it tonight.


Candace | 35 comments Amazon dropped the Kindle edition of this book to $3.99 for the month of September. So if you do have a Kindle, now's the time to get it!


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Books mentioned in this topic

Shanghai Girls (other topics)
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (other topics)
Dreams of Joy (other topics)
Dragon Bones (other topics)
Flower Net (other topics)
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