Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Shanghai Girls

Shanghai Girls: A Novel

Shanghai Girls
Lisa See
336 pgs.
Random House

Amazon Blurb -

See (Peony in Love) explores tradition, the ravages of war and the importance of family in her excellent latest. Pearl and her younger sister, May, enjoy an upper-crust life in 1930s Shanghai, until their father reveals that his gambling habit has decimated the family's finances and to make good on his debts, he has sold both girls to a wealthy Chinese-American as wives for his sons. Pearl and May have no intention of leaving home, but after Japanese bombs and soldiers ravage their city and both their parents disappear, the sisters head for California, where their husbands-to-be live and where it soon becomes apparent that one of them is hiding a secret that will alter each of their fates. As they adjust to marriage with strangers and the challenges of living in a foreign land, Pearl and May learn that long-established customs can provide comfort in unbearable times. See's skillful plotting and richly drawn characters immediately draw in the reader, covering 20 years of love, loss, heartbreak and joy while delivering a sobering history lesson. While the ending is ambiguous, this is an accomplished and absorbing novel.

I didn't want to read this book, I've read Snowflower And The Secret Fan from See, and while it was very good, her books are steeped in sorrow, tragedy and heartbreak.  This was no different.  Now, don't get me wrong, it was a very good book, but it was sad, sad, sad.  I really don't like reading such downers, but hey that's what a book club is about, reading stuff you normally wouldn't.  I don't want to discourage others from this novel, the characters were rich, their personalities so tangible.  I like Pearl, her sister May drove me nuts!  Their family was interesting and I found myself amazed at the culture's ways.  Lisa See does a wonderful job bringing you there with them.

While the girls were in China, you get such a great picture of life there, how different they think from Westerners, when they came here, you hurt for their ostracized life and the prejudices.  If you love historical novels steeped in fact, and can take heartache, this one is for you.

3 1/2 cannolis


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