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Shanghai Girls: A Novel Hardcover – May 26, 2009
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For readers of the phenomenal bestsellers Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Peony in Love--a stunning new novel from Lisa See about two sisters who leave Shanghai to find new lives in 1930s Los Angeles.
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.Amazon Exclusive: Lisa See on Shanghai Girls
I’m writing this on a plane to Shanghai. For the last couple of weeks I’ve been thinking about all the things I want to see and do on this research trip: look deeper into the Art Deco movement in Shanghai, visit a 17th-century house in a village of 300 people to observe the Sweeping the Graves Festival, and check out some old theaters in Beijing. But as I sit on the plane, I’m not thinking of the adventures that are ahead but of the people and places I’ve left behind. I’ve been gone from home only a few hours and already I’m homesick!
This puts me in mind of Pearl and May, the characters in Shanghai Girls. This feeling--longing for home and missing the people left behind--is at the heart of the novel. We live in a nation of immigrants. We all have someone in our families who was brave enough, scared enough, or crazy enough to leave the home country to come to America. I’m a real mutt in terms of ancestry, but I know that the Chinese side of my family left China because they were fleeing war, famine, and poverty. They were lured to America in hopes of a better life, but leaving China also meant saying goodbye to the homes they’d been born in, to their parents, brothers, and sisters, and to everything and everyone they knew. This experience is the blood and tears of American experience.
Pearl and May are lucky, because they come to America together. They’re sisters and they have each other. I’ve always wanted to write about sisters and I finally got my chance with Shanghai Girls. You could say that either I’m an only child or that I’m one of four sisters, because I have a former step-sister I’ve known for over 50 years and two half-sisters from different halves who I’ve known since they were born. Is Shanghai Girls autobiographical? Not really, but my sister Katharine and I once had a fight that was like the flour fight that May and Pearl got into when they were girls. And there was an ice cream incident that I used in the novel that sent my sister Clara right down memory lane when she read the manuscript. I’m also the eldest, and we all know what that means. I’m the one who’s supposed to be the bossy know-it-all. (But if that’s true, then why are they the ones who are always right?) What I know is that we’re very different from each other and our life experiences couldn’t be more varied, and yet we have a deep emotional connection that goes way beyond friendship. My sisters knew me when I was a shy little kid, helped me survive my first broken heart, share the memories of bad family car trips, and were at my side for the happiest moments in my life. More recently, we’ve begun to share things like the loss of our childhood homes, the changing of the neighborhoods we grew up in, and the frailties and illnesses of our myriad parents.
My emotions and experiences are deeply entwined with the stories I write. So as I fly over the Pacific, of course I’m thinking about May and Pearl, the people and places they left behind, the hopes and dreams that kept them moving forward, and the strength and solace they found in each other, but I’m thinking about myself too. As soon as I get to the hotel, I’m going to call my husband and sons to tell them I arrived safely, and then I’m going to send some e-mails to my sisters.--Lisa See
(Photo © Patricia Williams)
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
- Publisher : Random House; First Edition (May 26, 2009)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 336 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1400067111
- ISBN-13 : 978-1400067114
- Item Weight : 1 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.37 x 1.12 x 9.57 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #638,623 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Reviewed in the United States on August 6, 2017
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I also hated the graphic visions to, it really bothered me, and not in a way where I didn’t know..in a way where I thought it was too much. There are a lot of other things that I thought were either too much or not enough, that’s why I said I had a mixed review, and I’m really not sure how I truly feel?!
If I had known there was a part 2 to this novel I may not have read it, because the end was not satisfying enough to stand alone, in fact not at all, but I didn’t figure that out until the last 20 min...giving this story a 3.8 is pretty generous.
Like I said, it was spot on to what Chinese woman and families went through, but I’m just not the happiest finishing it either. As far as recommended, you need to know it’s graphic for that period of time.
The story of these young women and their families is extremely well told. It is filled with tragedy and hope. What better ending could one ask for, in a time of world war and extreme racial profiling. It rivals The Good Earth, but focuses on the middle/upper middle class Chinese -- not the peasants that are so well detailed in Pearl S. Buck's well known novel. Both writers are very adept at character development ... to the point that the reader knows them so well ... they must surely live next door.
Top reviews from other countries
I loved this book after the first couple of chapters and knew immediately that I'd need to read more of Lisa See's books. The character building was of top quality throughout and I really feel like I know Pearl. At times May really annoyed me, she wasn't serious enough for me, but I like that the sisters are opposites. This story wasn't about a happy ending; it was about telling the truth and about creating a realistic life for realistic characters - things would be great and then something would happen to make it not-so-great, which helped make the story seem so very, very real. I suspect there were people whose lives planned out how Pearl and May's have, and at times it honestly felt like I was reading a true story. There were so many surprises throughout and all of the characters surprised me at one time or another. This book has so many layers to it and, as I've said, it was written so well that it felt like real life... why hasn't this book been made into a TV show?!
So, so much happened in this book and I'm hungry to read the sequel - I hate that I can't afford to buy it right this second and that I instead have to wait for it to be available at the library :( I want to know where the character's lives are going - although there is one particular character that won't be in the sequel and I am so sad, because I was in love with said character. I don't know what else to say other than I loved this book SO much and it's definitely going on my favourites list!