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Books > August- Shanghai Girls

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message 1: by Colleen (new)

Colleen (nightoleander) | 676 comments Here you are Jen! I promise I wont look at the thread until I start the book! ;)

message 2: by Silver (new)

Silver I am almost finished with the book now and I have to say I am really enjoying this book. I it is even better than I had expected to be. I absolutely love the way in which Lee captures the culture and brings it to life. Particularly in the early part of the book she had some very striking descriptions of Shanghai and what life was like there.

I loved the way in which she portrayed the culture clash within the city, the way the modern world meets the old, as well as the contrast between the different classes and the different ethnic groups which lived there.

In some ways it made me think of Empire of the Sun. Shanghai sounds like it really was quite an interesting place in that era of time.

I like the way in which Lee also deals with ideas of disillusionment which come up in various different ways within the book, the way in which the outer appearance of something does not always meet the reality.

I think one of the most profound images of the book is when May and Pearl step over a dead baby in the streets of Shanghai while they were on their way to pose as Beautiful Girls and than go to a party. It is like seeing through the facade of the glam of the life that they believe they live in.

message 3: by Colleen (new)

Colleen (nightoleander) | 676 comments What a post! Great insight on the book Silver.

message 4: by Silver (new)

Silver Thank you!

message 5: by Colleen (new)

Colleen (nightoleander) | 676 comments I thought the dead baby passage was really an interesting way to paint the culture and to show that the sister's life wasn't all the glitz of being "beautiful girls".

message 6: by Silver (new)

Silver Colleen wrote: "I thought the dead baby passage was really an interesting way to paint the culture and to show that the sister's life wasn't all the glitz of being "beautiful girls"."

Yes, it acts as a foreshadow, both for showing the darker side so to speak behind the Shanghai modern/Western culture as well as the facade upon Pearl and May's own lives, both with their family status not being what they had thought, and then the discovery of the grim truth of their status of their husbands family and the conditions in America in general.

The way in which they seem to so carelessly and perhaps even callously step over there baby without giving it a thought so they could attend to their frivolous activities shows how clueless they are to the real world and how oblivious to what is really around them.

message 7: by Colleen (last edited Aug 21, 2010 07:23AM) (new)

Colleen (nightoleander) | 676 comments Absolutely, especially May who is the most sheltered one of all the characters.

I just read the bit about the special patrol there is to pick up all the abandoned dead babies littering the street like so much trash and the casual way Pearl offhandedly mentions the nightly baby pyres. Wow.

I really love how Lisa See seamlessly develops the characters and really captures a readers attention to the book, she is a great writer. This is the second book of hers I am reading and I am finding this book just as good as the last.

I love how the mama steps up and takes control during their escape and how Lisa See describes Pearl's awe that her mother has this quality in her.

message 8: by Silver (new)

Silver After reading this book it does make me want to read more books by her.

Yes I too really liked that moment in which mama showed herself to be more than what her daughters had always presumed and throughout the book it seems there is a lot about the impressions and assumptions people make compared to the reality within.

Perhaps it is a comment upon the Chinese culture, how so much is kept hidden inside, because they don't really openly express themselves.

The same way in which Pearl begins to see her in-laws in a new light, particularly yen-yen when she begins to spend more time with her and discover the person behind the outer persona.

message 9: by Colleen (new)

Colleen (nightoleander) | 676 comments I just finished the book, has anyone else?

message 10: by Trish (new)

Trish (trishag) | 84 comments I'm half way through. I should be done by tomorrow. I'll let you know:)

message 11: by Donna, The Pusher (new)

Donna (dfiggz) | 3116 comments Mod
I should start it tomorrow. I am very ecited now. More so now than I was before!

message 12: by Colleen (new)

Colleen (nightoleander) | 676 comments Where are you at in the book Trish?

I am glad you are excited Donna, I ended up giving it 4 stars and I rate books like you do.

message 13: by Silver (new)

Silver I find the mirror reflection of Pearl between her life in Shanghai and her life in America to be quite interesting.

When she is living in Shanghai all she can think about is wanting to be modern, and westernized and she looks down upon the traditions of her culture and views her parents as being backward and ignorant.

Yet once she arrives in America, and finds that life there is not as glamorous as she had romanticized it would be, she begins to turn more and more to the culture of her homeland of which she previously shunned.

Even after Pearl accepts America as her home and becomes adapted to life there, as well as learns to accept her new family and find some happiness with Sam, she still clings on to the old traditions.

message 14: by Donna, The Pusher (new)

Donna (dfiggz) | 3116 comments Mod
Finally starting it on the commute home!

message 15: by Donna, The Pusher (new)

Donna (dfiggz) | 3116 comments Mod
OMG I am already about half way thru. If I put this book down I think I will die of aniticipation!!!!

THX Colleen for the nomination and thanks everyone for the push forward!

OK back to reading...

message 16: by Donna, The Pusher (new)

Donna (dfiggz) | 3116 comments Mod
OK really??? This book will be done by the end of the day!!!

message 17: by Trish (new)

Trish (trishag) | 84 comments Colleen wrote: "Where are you at in the book Trish?..."

Sorry Colleen, I just saw your question now. I'm a little late since I finished the book yesterday.

******SPOILERS (thought I'd mention that in case)

I thought the book was very good. Reading about any other culture usually fascinates me.
I like how Pearl "became" her mother over the years, even though she disliked most of her behaviors when she was younger. (I've lost count of how many times I said that I sound like my mother)

Pearl definitely had a case of "the grass is always greener on the other side." When she was in Shanghai, she wanted to be "western" and vice versa. It inspires me to be happy right where I'm at.

I loved the end where we finally hear May's point of view and how differently her perspective was from Pearl's. The truth comes out in the end!

BUT I don't like how the book ended & I want more. There could be a sequel... Does Pearl find Joy?
Where does she find her?
Do they get back to the US?
Do they find Z.G.?
Too many unanswered questions...

message 18: by Colleen (new)

Colleen (nightoleander) | 676 comments I know I went to turn the last page and was like "what??? That's the ending???"


I had a feeling Z.G. was the father all along, that is so like May to have a relationship with the man her sister loves behind her back. The more the book went on the less I liked May, she just seemed to be so selfish to me. That big blow out the sisters have at the end of the book almost made me ill how May turned everything around to make herself to be the victim in everything. Yes it was amazing that she took care of Pearl after the horrible, horrible incedent in the shack but other than that she had no redeeming qualities in my eyes.

message 19: by Colleen (new)

Colleen (nightoleander) | 676 comments BTW, I am so so glad I ran across this book in a used book store and picked it up! I really enjoyed it and it seems like everyone else has as well.

message 20: by Trish (new)

Trish (trishag) | 84 comments I thought May was ALL bad throughout the whole book, so when she claimed to have good intentions at the end it made me like her a bit more.
But May sleeping with Z.G. after she knew how her Pearl loved him. -That was just WRONG on so many levels! Plus she said that they laughed behind Pearl's back...That's not very nice & May didn't even TRY to justify that one.

message 21: by Silver (new)

Silver Colleen wrote: "I know I went to turn the last page and was like "what??? That's the ending???"

I have not quite reached the end yet, but I knew when May first announced that she was pregnant that Z.G. was the father. That was the first thing that popped into my head and I did not really believe it was just some random guy. It did make me irritated at May to think that she would do such a thing, and yet on the other hand I always felt that Pearl was really naive about Z.G. and the fairy tale she created for their lives together.

I have to say that throughout the book, I found myself annoyed with both Pearl and May equally at various different points. While I was sympathetic to everything they suffered through, and their hardships, the way their entire world was turned upside down upon them. And I admired their strength to survive and rise above the tragedies they have been through, and make a life for themselves as best they could. On an individual level I found them not really very likable, their personalities were off putting and at times they both felt like they were just spoiled brats, and they both did things which were hurtful to the other whether intentionally or not.

I do not like the way in which Pearl sometimes seemed to forget that Joy really was May's daughter, and even though May gave Joy to her sister to raise, I thought at times Pearl was insensitive to the fact that May had to let someone else be the mother of her child, even if she did still get to spend a lot of time with her.

message 22: by Colleen (new)

Colleen (nightoleander) | 676 comments I know, I did find it a bit irksome that she always refered to Joy as HER daughter. Though it was a bit unfair that May didn't back Pearl up on her actual mothering and was more concerned with Joy seeing her as the "fun" woman in her life.

I hated how May kept downgrading the incedent in the shack as something Pearl "always" used to remind May of how much suffering she endured to make sure her sister stayed safe and didn't have to go through that as well. Granted I see both her wanting to try to save her mother and the fact that she should have stayed hidden with May but come on May. That was a severely traumatic thing for Pearl to go through, not something a woman can just "get over" as time goes by.

message 23: by Silver (new)

Silver Colleen wrote: "I know, I did find it a bit irksome that she always refered to Joy as HER daughter. Though it was a bit unfair that May didn't back Pearl up on her actual mothering and was more concerned with Joy ..."

That was pretty bad when May threw that in Pearl's face as something Pearl just used to get her way. But in some regards I could see why May became irritated with Pearl in the way in which as soon as they got to America, Pearl started wanting to revert back to the old ways of China.

While May was irresponsible and often preoccupied with her own feelings and unhappiness, I think she did have good intentions towards Joy and wanting to Joy to have a better and different life than they had.

While Pearl often talks about the opportunities in America which they did not have in China, and starts out being concerned about Joy's education, she also slips back into raising Joy in the same fashion she and May were brought up in.

Though I understood Pearl wanting to protect her daughter, I also did not really think that it was right, trying to prevent her from hearing or knowing anything about the truth of what was going on in China and in the world around them.

message 24: by Carol (new)

Carol (goodreadscomcarolann) I thought that May was spoiled by her parents and Pearl who would always give in to her demands (like when Pearl gave May the "screaming" movie role even though he picked Pearl.) I don't think May wanted to ever be a mom. I think she was happy to play the part of the fun aunt and focus on how she could further her career and later others. I think that she was also jealous of Pearl because Pearl had a husband and daughter who she loved as much as they loved her. And poor, beautiful got stuck with the sick brother who she didn't even take care of. I think that May was in love with May. Do you think that Z.G. was the first guy she slept with? I don't think so.

I was completely shocked that her husband hung himself. Did anyone see that coming? As well as her rape --totally shocked.

I was also surprised by the ending but I think it has sequel written all over it. There's a good 300 pages of story there.

message 25: by Trish (new)

Trish (trishag) | 84 comments Carol wrote: "...SPOILER . . .
I was completely shocked that her husband hung himself. Did anyone see that coming? As well as her rape --totally shocked.

I was also surprised by the ending but I think it has sequel written all over it..."

NO I definitely did not see the hanging or rape. I was shocked! I would like for there to be a sequel b/c I thought there were too many loose ends. Not that I'm having a tantrum about it, but it's more of an even-keeled curiosity.

message 26: by Silver (new)

Silver I too was completely surprised by Sam's hanging. I did not see that coming, and it was a total shock.

I did find it rather interesting at the end having the moment in which the reader actually got to see things from the point of view from May and see how May's and Pearl's perspectives were so different from each other and the way in which they both saw the situation and the different ways in which both May and Pearl did not fully realize what the other was going through, how they both envied the things the other had.

They are shown as seeming to be so close to each other throughout most of the book, and though throughout they did have their disagreements, and tensions between them, they don't see how great the distance really is between them.

I have to say in a way I really liked how it ended. Though one cannot help but to be curious to wonder just what is going to happen to them next, I almost think that a squeal would not really live up to the to the hype and potentially of the questions which are left behind.

message 27: by Colleen (last edited Aug 28, 2010 10:38PM) (new)

Colleen (nightoleander) | 676 comments Will write more later but wanted to get a quick post in...


How could she not, she totally set the ending up for one.

message 28: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer (Misskitty1026) | 105 comments ohh good a sequel. i was also shocked i enjoyed this book as much as i did and i definitely did not see the hanging coming. I really think the book game me a lot of insights to what went on in China during the war that we were not exactly taught in school.

message 29: by Donna, The Pusher (new)

Donna (dfiggz) | 3116 comments Mod

OK so I too didn't really like May throughout the the book and even when she was "justified" at the end but I still was annoyed at her. I was truly shocked out Sam and I hated the ending just because it ended just like that but I guess if there is a sequel then I can deal but now I have to wait until it comes out.

I too had a feeling that ZG was the Dad I was not shocked at all but I was shocked that Joy found out but I was happy that Sam did not. I didn't expect Joy to ever know.

message 30: by Trish (new)

Trish (trishag) | 84 comments I just put on comment on Lisa See's GR page saying that we are on the edge of our seats wanting to know if she is writing a sequel. I BEGGED for her to let us know:)
***fingers crossed***

message 31: by Donna, The Pusher (new)

Donna (dfiggz) | 3116 comments Mod
Ohhhh That would be awesome!!!

message 32: by Lori (new)

Lori | 48 comments Ok, I finished it yesterday, I didn't have as much time to read on vacation as I would have liked, but I did finish it before August was over. I really enjoyed reading it and was always anticipating the next page. I spent a lot of time angry with Pearl for being so clueless in some ways and yet so perceptive in others. I don't have a sister (and always wanted one) so I can't speak first hand to that but I do have two daughters. I think the whole story is basically about how you cannot possibly know what another person's life is like, so be careful not to judge. You have no idea what someone else has been through, what their relationships are like. It was fascinating seeing China before WWII and how it changed as well as how Asians in general were viewed by Americans.
My husband is from the Philippines and his grandfather survived the Bataan Death March and a Japanese prisoner of war camp for several years. He did not have anything to do with Japanese people, ever. My husband briefly dated a Japanese girl in high school and he just ignored her.
I didn't see Sam hanging himself, but I did think he was going to break. He just had had too many disappointments, I really thought the death of his son was going to do it. But in the end it was the only thing he could do to protect his family, especially Joy. Of all the characters in the book, I liked him the best. I will read a sequel for sure when it comes out because I would love to know how Pearl finds Joy and if Joy finds Z.G. and how Pearl and May come to terms with all the choices they made.

message 33: by Donna, The Pusher (new)

Donna (dfiggz) | 3116 comments Mod

I really hated the relationship between Z.G. and May. Iy amde me so angry!!! It also made me so angry that Joy went to find him. I don't know why but I don't like it.

I have 2 sisters and a brother I am the youngest and me and the oldest are super close. We are best friends as well and sisters and there are many things that we change just to conform to one another. It's nice to have her around.

Lori, I too have 2 daughters. They are 15 months apart but they are too young right now to even like each other. I am hoping the grow to become super close as well.

message 34: by Silver (new)

Silver Though it was wrong for May to sleep with Z.G. behind Pearl's back, it did not make me that angry for one because Pearl was completely delusional in her fantasy about her relationship with Z.G.

No matter what happened in their lives Z.G. was never going to love her and marry her and Pearl completely fabricated the idea of their love out of her own wishful desires.

As well at the end when the reader gets to see things through May's point of view, in a way I did feel sympathetic toward May. Because it is true that Pearl ended up with a husband who loved her and who she grew to care about while May in her own marriage was denied any happiness or feelings of affection.

Though I do think that Joy's views upon China are rather naive particularly since she has no personal experience and she is filled with idealistic ideas, I cannot completely blame her for being angry at having been lied to all her life and wanting to meet her biological father.

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