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Hello! Thanks for stopping by Take Me Away, where I review books of a variety of genres. My favorite genres are literary and contemporary fiction, though I also enjoy some mystery/thrillers. I also enjoy sociological and psychological non-fiction. Check out the tabs across the top to navigate the site. All the reviews on this site are categorized by title (fiction or non-fiction) or by author. Check out the "About Jenny" section to learn a little more about me. Thanks again for stopping by, and feel free to leave a comment even if it's just to say hi! =)
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!