thewanderingjew's Reviews > Shanghai Girls

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
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Feb 20, 2010

really liked it

This book is an historical novel which takes place in the early 20th century at a time when Japan overruns China. It is written so well that the information virtually flies off the page and the character's personalities seem real not fictional.
The reader watches as May and Pearl, sisters aged 16 and 19, model for an artist who paints “Beautiful Girl” calendars, watches them as they party at night and feels their sense of adventure and joy, their sense of abandon, and then, ultimately watches them hear their father's tale of woe as he informs them that he has lost everything to gambling debts and must sell them as wives to settle these debts so he can continue to provide for himself, their mother and mentally deficient brother. Their carefree life of luxury is suddenly over.
The reader now feels the girl’s shock, bewilderment and ultimate defiance as they suddenly descend into another world of poverty and hardship, no parties, no fun, no room for careless, thoughtless or selfish behavior any longer. As one year follows another, the reader is taken on their journey, experiencing the horrors of war and reeling from the shock of their losses and suffering their tragedies with them. It is not a book that leaves you with many happy thoughts but it is a book that you will find hard to put down until you finish. Although, you will read it in a matter of days and into the night, you will think about it far longer than that. The story stays with you.
As the book moves along, we follow the girls as they quickly lose their innocence trying to survive. We watch them keep trying to climb back up again. Their family secrets and deceptions are revealed. Many, which began in innocence, cause even greater pain and sadness with the passage of time. We watch as one sister deceives the other and brings about tragic consequences because of her naivete and jealousy. Each domino falls, followed by another, causing additional pain. There are so many levels of underlying deceit and corruption touching the lives of these characters that the truth and lies merge into a seamless pattern, making it hard to distinguish one from the other.
It is a book about family obligations, love, jealousy, hate and discrimination with all the accompanying inequities. It is a book about the miseries of war with its rape, torture and death in its quest for power and control. It is a book about the acceptance of one's fate based on one's history and ancestry.
The main characters face a constant battle to overcome all of the obstacles placed in their way. This book cries out for a sequel because it leaves many unanswered questions about the ultimate fate of the three main female characters, Joy, Pearl and May. I, for one, am hoping for a sequel soon!
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Monica have you read the sequel, Dreams of Joy, yet?

thewanderingjew Thanks for your comment. I have read it, but I didn't like it as much.

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