Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Review: Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

In her latest novel, Lisa See takes the reader to Shanghai where we are introduced to Pearl and May Chin, two sisters who enjoy the "beautiful girl" lifestyle. Every day is devoted to posing for painters, shopping and socializing. All this comes to an abrupt halt when the sisters learn that their father has sold them to strangers from Los Angeles to cover his gambling debts. The two sisters did not want to go to America until the Japanese began to bomb the city of Shanghai. Through much hardship the girls finally make their way to Los Angeles and begin their lives as wives of two brothers.

The sisters have married into a family that is mentally still living the Chinese lifestyle. Pearl and May try their best to adapt but it is not easy at all. How the two sisters deal with all this adversity just shows their strengths even though they were very young women at the time. The relationship between the sisters is what sustains them until the very end when a well kept secret becomes known. Pearl and May persevere and do what is right for them overcoming unspoken feelings of resentment from childhood.

Lisa See is perfect at producing a story that grabs the reader at every turn of the page although one of the events in the end seemed out of character. The descriptions put the reader right into the scene. Some of the best parts of the book are the historical facts woven into the story. The plight of Chinese immigrants is fully explored and gives great depth to the storyline. The book ended quite abruptly as though there is either a sequel planned or the reader is just left hanging. Even so, overall the story was a very easy and enjoyable read.

My criteria for a rating is always how easily I can put the book down and how quickly I want to get back to it. This is a very good story, it grabbed my attention right away but towards the last third I found I could put the book down quite easily. I didn't feel the need to put life on hold and rush back to see what happened. That to me makes the book a 3.5 ***


  1. Nice Review Kay. This on is on my list. I agree with you on part of the way that you select a rating on a book. Wanting to sneak away with a book rather than do other things is definitely a sign of a good one.!!

  2. Oh, I have a copy of this and will now put it in my TBR pile (which grows daily) but signed those papers today so come June 9th...a free from work woman, Pudgy! Thanks for a great review...and I one I can trust.

  3. Kaye, I emailed the author to ask about the abrupt ending. She hinted at a sequel. Nice review!

  4. This was a really good review and you're way ahead of me, as usual. I'm glad you enjoyed the book that I helped to write (Yeah, right!) I was thinking the same thing that Toni commented on, that's a great way to rate a book. It's easy to sum it up and everyone can relate to it. Well, every reader can relate to it.

    I have to say, Pudgy has the cutest darn family and I just love meeting more and more of them. How many members of his family does he have helping him on the blog? :)

  5. I believe, though I could be wrong that the only book I've read that was somewhat similar to this was Memoirs of a Geisha. Though I really, really enjoyed it (much more than the movie), I never did get around to picking up anything else like it. Maybe I should give this a try!

  6. Wrighty, members of the Pudgy family cannot be counted! They appear, disappear and then maybe reappear. As the sign says, one by one the penguins steal my sanity.

    Mary, that's interesting because it's hard to justify that ending without something else planned. She must have seen how many books Nora Roberts has sold and though, aha - trilogys make much more money!

    Bingo- June 9th will be a red letter day! Remember what we talked about re pulling back. Enjoy your retirement.

  7. Sounds like a good book :)
    Nice review, I will look this one up

  8. I'm really looking forward to reading this book!

  9. I am putting this one on my list. I've read several reviews but I like the way you did yours. I appreciate knowing that the last third was not as gripping as the rest of the book. It doesn't change the fact that I'm going to read it.

    I also love coming here to see what's new with your penguins. They are just plain fun.

  10. This definitely sounds like a book i would enjoy. I have just finished Memoirs of Geisha and really enjoyed it and I get the feeling this is in a similar vein.

  11. I've heard a lot of good things about this one. I'll be reading it soon, and it's my first Lisa See book. Thanks for the honest review.

    Btw, I have a little something for you here.

    Diary of an Eccentric


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