Shanghai Girls

Sunday, August 2, 2009


That is what I have to say after reading Shanghai Girls by Lisa See. See's Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is one of my favorite books and this book was right up there with that one! Shanghai Girls is, first and foremost, a story about two sisters and their bond, their history, their resentments, and their love for each other. But there are so many other themes too -- family, traditions, values, freedom, culture, government... this is also historical fiction chronicling the history of the Chinese including the war against Japan (the Second Sino-Japanese War), the Angel Island Immigration Station (at which those immigrating to the states often had to stay for months at a time before being permitted to enter), China's transition to Communism, and the Confession Program.

In quick summary, Pearl and May are the two sisters in the book who are living the good and modern life afforded to them in Shanghai, China in the 1930's. They enjoy life and spend their time as "beautiful girls" modeling for artists. Then their father unexpectedly announces he has arranged their marriages to brothers looking to move to the United States -- unexpected because in their modern way of life, Pearl and May had planned on marrying for love rather than in the arranged marriages of the past. The lives of Pearl and May change forever at this point, but not just because of the marriages. China is attacked by Japan and the lives of all the Chinese changes. Later, in the United States, the Chinese who have escaped the war in China face discrimination and risk deportation. In the meantime, they live their lives and still struggle with other issues within their family. Pearl and May also share secrets (together and individually) from their past that simultaneously strengthens their bond and builds their resentments.

This novel elicited so many emotions from me. And I was so engaged in the story that I didn't realize it was over. I turned the page and realized the rest of the pages were the acknowledgments! The ending did catch me by surprise but when I thought about it, it made sense... BUT turns out there will be a sequel! This book also made me want to read more about the historical events -- not just the events in this novel but other historical events in general. It made me want to know more about the history of our countries and governments -- I think it's amazing when a book can give you that desire. As you can tell, this was a wonderful novel for many different reasons and I highly recommend it!!

I have See's previous novel, Peony in Love, on my TBR pile and I will definitely be bumping it up now!


bookjourney said...

I think this book looks wonderful. I have seen it reviewed several times and know I need to read this. :)


okbolover said...

I loved this book too. It was really good. Glad you liked it as much as I did. So there is a sequel huh? can't wait!

Jenny said...

Sheila -- have you read Snow Flower? I think if you liked that then you will like this one.

Karoline -- Yup, that's what it says on her website! It's funny because even with the way it ended, I never even considered there might be a sequel, hehe.

NY Book Cafe said...


I was looking at this book the other day...I cant wait to read it! What a great review!!

Jenny said...

Thanks, Jennifer!

ANovelMenagerie said...

I, too, loved this book. I thought it was wonderful! I took the girls to go to Chinatown after finishing up this read!

bermudaonion said...

I've got all 3 of See's books and haven't made the time to read them yet. This one sounds just wonderful.

Linda Ellen said...

I have heard such great things about this book. I think I'm going to have to read it, but the end of the story would leave me hanging and then I would want more! =P

Thanks for visiting my blog. =)

Sherrie said...

Hi Jenny,
Followed you here through Book Blogger. I've had this book on my TBR list for the longest time. I really need to pump it up to the top. I've also joined Mellisa in the 1001 Books to Read Challenge. Looking forward to seeing what you are reading. Have a great day!


Jenny said...

Hi Sherrie -- Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad you're doing the 1001 challenge too! Should be fun!

Linda -- it sort of did but I was pleasantly surprised to see there will be a sequel... although I don't think she's even started writing it yet, so it might be a while.

bermudaonion -- I can definitely recommend this one and Snow Flower for sure! Hopefully the other one will be just as wonderful!

Sheri -- that's a great idea!

Momma Hunt said...

This was a great review, I have heard so many great things about the Shanghai Girls I think I need to go get it. I found you through the book blogs and love your site!

Jenny said...

Thanks! I just went to check out your blog and I was just there the other day! (I commented about my sister's keeper). =)

Allie ~ Hist-Fic Chick said...

Great review...I'm so glad to hear you liked this book because I thought Snow Flower was so touching and wonderful. I will definitely be adding this one, and Peony In Love to my Wishlist! Lisa See writes SO beautifully, she's so poetic with her words. Thanks for visiting my blog and for linking this review for me to see :)

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