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China Dolls

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  32,776 ratings  ·  3,508 reviews
An exciting new novel set in the "Chop Suey Circuit" of San Francisco right before World War II, from the beloved bestselling author of Snowflower and the Secret Fan and Shanghai Girls.

In 1938, Ruby, Helen and Grace, three girls from very different backgrounds, find themselves competing at the same audition for showgirl roles at San Francisco's exclusive "Oriental" nightcl
Hardcover, 376 pages
Published June 3rd 2014 by Random House
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Roberta No. the history is good...interesting but characters are not believable and not very 'nice'. I agree with Annalie...teens don't have enough life exper…moreNo. the history is good...interesting but characters are not believable and not very 'nice'. I agree with Annalie...teens don't have enough life experience to relate to this book. I didn't relate to this booik.(less)
Melvina Flaherty See's POV rotates between the three main characters, Grace, Ruby and Helen which caused me to look back sometimes to refresh my recollection as to who…moreSee's POV rotates between the three main characters, Grace, Ruby and Helen which caused me to look back sometimes to refresh my recollection as to who was speaking, but the novel does provide an interesting historical account of the Japanese internment and fears and concerns of WWII.(less)

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Jun 07, 2014 rated it it was ok
I'm a Lisa See fan. I preordered this book. I'm kind of disappointed in it. Something about it just wasn't up to her usual standard. I never really understood why these three girls were friends. The only basis for that friendship seemed to be that they were all pretty, and that's it! Is that what the author intended? The jumping back and forth between narrators was disjointed - it didn't flow smoothly at all. And the actions of the characters didn't match what they were thinking, and what they w ...more
I tried to give this two stars, but the more I think about it, the worse it seems, and I just don't think it deserves the second star. I'm a devoted Lisa See fan, and the premise was so intriguing, so I don't do this lightly. But I really did not like this book.

When I read Song of the Silk Road by Mingmei Yip, I thought it was just terrible, terrible writing. Now I wonder if this is a deliberate style, because I've read Lisa See's other books and the writing was beautiful. But why would she
Apr 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I am, by all accounts, a fairly voracious reader. I love books of a variety of genres and writing styles. I do, of course, have preferences and pet peeves. One thing I do enjoy in fiction books is an ending that ties up loose ends. While I appreciate a reader desiring to create their own version of a character's future, I highly value when an author delivers me to the end of the journey I embarked on when I cracked open the cover. And with certain novels, I become so intimate with characters and ...more
I am partial to historical fiction set in the 1940's that include WWII, and was really looking forward to reading this novel chosen by my local book-club, but it unfortunately fell short for me. The story does have an interesting and engaging start, but as I became more acquainted with the deceitful main protagonists, Grace, Irene, and Ruby, their "so-called" friendship just did not click; and despite the secrets not yet revealed, I just did not especially care about these three self-absorbed da ...more
Elyse  Walters
Feb 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Forgive me ... I'm cuckoo...
On vacation ... just came out of a massage..

THIS was the AUDIO book I listened to and liked... with the 3 girls in SF. ...
NOT that other book I never heard of. ( forget it's name already)

My phone is doing tricks here in a cove - side mountain in Carmel. - starting- freezing - and running out of juice!

The VOICES in THIS book are really engaging - great company storytelling while taking a walk.

Each girl had their own issues - secrets - struggles - and gifts.
When 3 wom
Nethra Ram
May 16, 2014 rated it it was ok
Perhaps I took too long to finish reading this book; perhaps the intervals led to me getting bored over the story, I don't know. I'll give the author the benefit of the doubt, seeing how many others have been captivated by this story.

The book traces the life of three female Chinese dancers (and a plethora of other characters) through their time together performing at night clubs, being friends, turning enemies and trying to figure it all out. For such a sparkling premise, I expected a moving tal
“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”

----Anaïs Nin, a French-born novelist, passionate eroticist and short story writer

Lisa See, a Chinese-American NY Times Bestselling author, crafts an unique and heart-touching story, called China Dolls, about friendship beyond religion, country, war, love and hate between two Chinese girls and one Japanese girl trying to earn a living in their hometown
Mar 19, 2014 rated it it was ok
Being a huge fan of Lisa See, all I can say is that I'm sorry I had to give this 2 stars. The dialog between the girls doesn't seem like actual conversation, it just didn't work for me. These characters did not come alive to me as real women. And how they related to each other? Maybe it would be possible for their shared career path? Hoping that each chapter might get me interested in these women's outcomes, I stopped and started this book several times. But I never got imbedded in any outcomes ...more
Apr 11, 2014 rated it liked it
This is a story of three American "Oriental" girls (as they were called at the time) who meet by chance in San Francisco in the late 1930's while trying out as nightclub dancers on the outskirts of Chinatown. Each come from different backgrounds and the story centers around their friendship as it evolves and changes through the next ten years or so.

I honestly had trouble really liking this book. I found the writing somewhat mediocre and I really didn't care for any of the characters, even by th
May 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
China Dolls is an interesting book and I don't think its a book that most people would enjoy. This book is described as being about three friends relying on one another to make it in the dance world and dealing with the challenges of being Asian during World War II.

But its really about three women who dislike each other most of the time and who lie & back stab each other. These women were messy as fuck, they were sleeping with the same men, they were resentful when one another woman would succe
Jan 18, 2014 rated it liked it
Pre- and post-Pearl Harbor in San Francisco, and three Oriental-American club dancers are experiencing racial prejudice  along with personal success and failures. The prejudice felt very familiar to what Muslims and Mexicans in this country might be experiencing in America now or in the near future (if we allow a certain trumpeter who likes to blow his own horn into office).  Prejudice will live throughout history and the future, but books like this can educate us as to its effects on its innoce ...more
Connie Rea
Oh. My. Great. Goodness....and breathe....

Lisa See has really outdone herself with this one. I'm not at sure if she shouldn't just put up her pen and call it a day.....this book was just so wonderful! I seriously wonder how she can ever top it....Most people if asked what this book was about would automatic reply with it's about some Chinese and Japanese girls in San Francisco at the time leading up to, during and after WWII....But it's not. To me, that's the whole point. This is a story about 3
A sparkling wartime saga following three Asian-American girlfriends who meet in San Francisco’s Chinatown in 1938. As they grow closer, sharing apartments and gigs, the cardinal virtue of loyalty often seems at odds with the exigencies of stardom.

See vividly depicts the bawdy atmosphere of the semi-nude nightclubs where the ‘Chinese Fred Astaire’ and ‘Chinese Frank Sinatra’ got their start. She peoples her Chinatown settings with a mixture of fictional and historical characters (Ronald Reagan an
Jun 10, 2014 rated it it was ok
This novel was definitely a miss for me. I guess nothing will live up to Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. The premise of the novel was promising (hence why I requested it for Early Reviewers) and I love the historical time period...BUT...these girls seem to despise each other. The early chapters are filled with rude remarks to each other (and snarky thoughts about each other); and then, to help the plotline along, since they have to be friends, the girls just think/say, "Well, we have to stick to ...more
May 29, 2014 rated it it was ok
I was very surprised Lisa See came out with this book. It is flat, plodding, and dull. I don't actually understand the story arc or ultimate point of the novel. I am a huge fan of “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” which is beautifully written, lush, and fascinating, but “China Dolls” is not a well put-together work – hard to believe it was written by the same author!

I found this book to be shallow reading based for pre-teens. The girls were shallow, giggly, and immature.
Mar 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. It was so interesting learning about Chinese culture during the 40's. It had complex relationships and and very interesting characters. You really felt their pain and they reacted accordingly. I definitely recommend this book. I can't wait to read another book by Lisa See ...more
I thoroughly enjoyed the historical fiction, China Dolls by Lisa See and read by Jodi Long. Jodi was an excellent reader for this well written book, giving different voices to the three best friends, Helen, Rose and Grace.
The girls meet in San Francisco in 1938 and become roommates and best friends with secrets. Lisa See masterfully gives the characters life with her detailed descriptions of appearances, movements and actions along with their different points of view. Most characters were likea
Isabel Allende
Jun 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
As World War II begins, three friends find themselves competing for one showgirl role at San Francisco Chinatown’s exclusive nightclub The Forbidden City. Ruby is Japanese and desperate to pass as Chinese so she won’t be sent to a Japanese internment camp, Grace has fled her abusive Mid-western family, and Helen, who grew up in Chinatown, hides her own secret. The author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan beautifully explores the intricacies of friendship.
Mar 25, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, audio-books
The Hook - I'm a fan of Lisa See. After reading many high fives for China Dolls I decided I was in. When I needed a new audiobook China Dolls won the toss.

The Line”The fear of death is a powerful aphrodisiac.”

The Sinker – I've waited a few days to comment onChina Dolls. I wanted to give myself time to think what went wrong for me in this book. I expected to be wowed but came away feeling conflicted. There were many things I liked, each woman's story and their struggle and determination to be
Nov 24, 2014 rated it it was ok
if it weren't for the author's name staring at me in the upper left corner of every page, you would never have been able to convince me that this is the same author who wrote Snow Flower and the Secret Fan or Shanghai Girls. despite having been a fan of Lisa See for years, I could not have been more disappointed in this book.

first, the writing style was uninspired at best and juvenile at worst. you'd think that the concept of 'show, don't tell' was a foreign one to the author, except I thought
Ashley Marie
Lisa See's writing is truly exquisite. I fell in love with Grace, Helen, and Ruby almost immediately. Jodi Long's narration was excellent. ...more
Lyn (Readinghearts)
Mar 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Lisa See fans, those interested in Chinese American culture
Recommended to Lyn (Readinghearts) by: Edelweiss
Like many readers, my introduction to author Lisa See's work was with Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, and like most readers, I instantly fell in love. The book was beautifully written, the story was wonderful. Since reading Snow Flower, I have read most of the rest of Lisa See's work, and own copies of them all. To say that I am a fan of her work just doesn't quite say it all.

I recently read her new offering, China Dolls, and I am glad to say that I was not disappointed. China Dolls tells the s
I enjoyed this book and then I didn't...It also took me along time to actually get through the book so it felt quite disjointed but that's entirely my own fault. I was uming and ahing if I should give this a 2 or a 3 start since you can't give halves otherwise it'd be a clear 2.5 but I decided to give it the 3 because the book hooked me straight away.

Overall the book is enjoyable, it reads well but there is just something about the characters that don't sit quite well for me. I guess these girls
Dec 04, 2013 rated it liked it
I love Lisa See and I learned so much about Chinese American history and culture during WWII from this book. From that angle, I'm glad I read it. I never really engaged with the story or the characters. Lisa See threw every possible detail she uncovered in her research into these three women, and it often felt awkward or contrived. I began to feel like Ruby, Grace and Helen and the other minor characters existed only to provide a historical and cultural overview of the period. The book is well-r ...more
I had this on my “to read” list for awhile; so decided to start reading it. I found it slightly interesting with the Japanese/American war aspect side of it; but really could not get into the main characters and just wanted to rush through it and get it finished so I could start reading something that really captured my interest
Mar 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Grace has been raised in the mid-west but finds herself in San Francisco when she runs away to escape from her abusive father. In her hometown, Grace has won numerous dance contests and dreams of being a big star, so San Francisco during the World Exposition of the late 1930's seems to be a great place to go, but Grace is told there is no openings for a Chinese girl so she makes her way to Chinatown where she meets and befriends Helen and Ruby. Together the three girls audition as dancers at The ...more
Dec 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
First of all,I really really liked this book!And yes,this is a chick flic book but even more.I give this book a 4.5 rating.This book was such a great escape if I may use that word,to describe the goings on in the lives of these 3 ladies.If your think it might be a fluffy it isn't and here's why:
The lives of three young Chinese-American women—Grace, Helen, and Ruby—intersect in valuable and often violent ways in pre-WWII San Francisco as they shed their drab former lives to become glamor
I have now read five Lisa See novels and I dare her to write one I don't love. I don't think she can do it.

"China Dolls" falls on the 4-star level for me, as did "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan". It's not See's fault that her skill level is so high that even really great books like these two are only 4 stars while "Shanghai Girls", "Dreams of Joy", and "Peony In Love" are 5-ers. And just because I didn't give it full marks shouldn't deter anyone from reading it.

It took me about a week to read t
Laura • lauralovestoread
“𝚆𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚢 𝚠𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚍𝚘𝚗𝚎 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚖𝚎, 𝙸 𝚠𝚊𝚜 𝚝𝚛𝚊𝚗𝚜𝚏𝚘𝚛𝚖𝚎𝚍. 𝙵𝚘𝚛 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚏𝚒𝚛𝚜𝚝 𝚝𝚒𝚖𝚎, 𝙸 𝚠𝚊𝚜𝚗’𝚝 𝚓𝚞𝚜𝚝 𝚊 𝙲𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚊 𝚍𝚘𝚕𝚕. 𝙸 𝚠𝚊𝚜 𝚊𝚗 𝚎𝚡𝚝𝚛𝚊𝚘𝚛𝚍𝚒𝚗𝚊𝚛𝚢 𝚋𝚎𝚊𝚞𝚝𝚒𝚏𝚞𝚕 𝚠𝚘𝚖𝚊𝚗.”

I just love Lisa See’s books and China Dolls did not disappoint.

3 women who meet as friends, each with a past of secrets and hardships, and their stories unfold as they get to know one another.
Apr 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Lisa See is rapidly becoming one of my favorite authors, with her insightful, well-researched novels and her fascinating memoir. "China Dolls" is an excellent addition to her ouvre.

In this tale, we have Grace, Helen, and Ruby, all auditioning to dance at San Francisco's "Forbidden City" night club. Each of them has a secret she's keeping ... from the other two, but sometimes even hidden behind their own walls of denial. We see the young girls grown in friendship, through numerous challenges, and
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Lisa See is a Chinese-American author. Her books include Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (2005), Dragon Bones, and On Gold Mountain. She was named the 2001 National Woman of the Year, by the Organization of Chinese American Women. She lives in Los Angeles.

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