Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Double Review: Shanghai Girls and Dreams of Joy by Lisa See
Author: Lisa See
Who Should Read It?
Lisa See is a gifted author, it's just a fact, and Shanghai Girls and Dreams of Joy are no exception. If you've ever been won over by Lisa See in the past, definitely check these books out. If you have any interest in Asian history, these books are for you.
What I Have to Say:
Really, these two books are both so beautifully written and poignantly touching that they deserve their own separate reviews. But after reading Shanghai Girls, I was so enthralled by the story of these two sisters that I immediately picked up Dreams of Joy and just kept reading. I couldn't stop. As such, they're so tangled in my head that they're practically the same book, and I wouldn't even know how to separate them for a review.
So, in order to not give anything from the second away while writing about the first, I will stick to feelings. I cried, I laughed, I was horrified, I was disgusted, I was overwhelmed by beauty, I was annoyed. . .I can't think of any feeling I didn't feel. To summarize - I was moved.
Lisa see has written about the plight of China and of Chinese Americans during (and before) World War II in a vivid, heart-capturing way. Shanghai Girls becomes one of those books that you literally CAN'T put down - the story will be twisting around so much in your head that you'll find you have to pick it back up.
And then, it has no ending. Whatsoever. If I hadn't had Dreams of Joy right on hand, I think I would have been annoyed. But because I did, I was able to smoothly transition into the rest of the story, and I wasn't as disappointed. The story of mother and daughter was just as well-written and beautifully touching as the drama-filled yet loving relationship of two sisters.
I loved these books, and they are totally deserving of the 5 stars I've given them. Only as a pair, though. They need each other. And despite them being so deserving, it was still hard to give them 5 stars, because, as wonderful and as readable as they were, they were still now "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan."
Summary: Shanghai Girls: May and Pearl, two sisters living in Shanghai in the mid-1930s, are beautiful, sophisticated, and well-educated, but their family is on the verge of bankruptcy. Hoping to improve their social standing, May and Pearl’s parents arrange for their daughters to marry “Gold Mountain men” who have come from Los Angeles to find brides.
But when the sisters leave China and arrive at Angel’s Island (the Ellis Island of the West)--where they are detained, interrogated, and humiliated for months--they feel the harsh reality of leaving home. And when May discovers she’s pregnant the situation becomes even more desperate. The sisters make a pact that no one can ever know.
A novel about two sisters, two cultures, and the struggle to find a new life in America while bound to the old, Shanghai Girls is a fresh, fascinating adventure from beloved and bestselling author Lisa See.
Dreams of Joy: In her beloved New York Times bestsellers Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Peony in Love, and, most recently, Shanghai Girls, Lisa See has brilliantly illuminated the potent bonds of mother love, romantic love, and love of country. Now, in her most powerful novel yet, she returns to these timeless themes, continuing the story of sisters Pearl and May from Shanghai Girls, and Pearl’s strong-willed nineteen-year-old daughter, Joy.
Reeling from newly uncovered family secrets, and anger at her mother and aunt for keeping them from her, Joy runs away to Shanghai in early 1957 to find her birth father—the artist Z.G. Li, with whom both May and Pearl were once in love. Dazzled by him, and blinded by idealism and defiance, Joy throws herself into the New Society of Red China, heedless of the dangers in the communist regime.
Devastated by Joy’s flight and terrified for her safety, Pearl is determined to save her daughter, no matter the personal cost. From the crowded city to remote villages, Pearl confronts old demons and almost insurmountable challenges as she follows Joy, hoping for reconciliation. Yet even as Joy’s and Pearl’s separate journeys converge, one of the most tragic episodes in China’s history threatens their very lives.
Acclaimed for her richly drawn characters and vivid storytelling, Lisa See once again renders a family challenged by tragedy and time, yet ultimately united by the resilience of love.
Cover Story: They're perfect. Both of the covers for both of the books are perfect. And that is all.
These books were sent to me for free, but this in no way affected my review.