As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

March 23, 2011

SHANGHAI GIRLS by Lisa See, 2009

Shanghai Girls: A NovelMay 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. (Amazon)

Reviewed by Kathleen Bossenbroek, High School English Teacher

Lisa See is also the author of Snowflower and the Secret Fan. I've never read that one, but hear it is good. The novel starts off in Shanghai right before the Japanese invade during WWII. The protagonist and her sister are spoiled in "the Paris of the East." Their father (you're not going to like this guy) changes their fates very quickly.

By the end of the novel, they are in California during the Red Scare. Not only did I enjoy the time period the book was set in, but the characters are so captivating. The dynamic between sisters definitely hit home.If you have a sister, you will understand what I mean. After you read it, let me know if you are a May or a Pearl. It also explores the dynamic between mothers and daughters. I truly enjoyed Shanghai Girls. Like Dr. Seuss says, "a person's a person, no matter how small," or what race or gender or socioeconomic status.

You have to read this book (with tissues nearby). 

Market: Adult Fiction
Language: Mild
Sensuality: Mild
Violence: Moderate to "Keep a Trash Can Nearby"
Mature Themes: death, abuse

Book formats:

To learn more about the author, visit: Lisa See


Heather said...

Thank you for reviewing this book. It's in my TBR pile (unfortuneatly towards the bottom) but I think I'll have to move it up a few places.
Thanks again!

pie said...

I've seen this in the bookstore. It never jumped out at me, but now I'll have to pick it up. Part of my family came to the US about the same time, although they went to the East Coast.

Anonymous said...

I've heard a lot of good things about Lisa See's books. Thanks for the review, Kathleen!