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May 29, 2011 / Leslie

Review: Shanghai Girls

Shanghai GirlsShanghai Girls
by Lisa See
Read by: Janet Song

Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publish Date: May 2009
Format: Audio CD | 13 Hours and 30 min
Rating: 4½ of 5

Pearl and May Chin were born into a family of wealth and prosperity in 1930’s Shanghai. They are beautiful girls and live a carefree, glamorous life. They love to shop, consider themselves modern, spend lavishly on beautiful silk dresses and often spend their days modeling for local artists.

One day their world comes crashing down on them. Their father has gambled away his rickshaw business and is heavily in debt. To save himself he sells his daughters to an American who wants brides for his sons. The sisters are devastated and have no intention of complying. Before they can make other plans, war with Japan breaks out and amid the atrocities and brutality of the invading soldiers, their only escape is to make their way to America and the safety of their new husbands.

Lisa See captured the essence of what it was like to be a stranger, a foreigner, in a new country. I felt the pain along with the sisters of having their world turned upside down, to go from a privileged life to that of an outsider, the need to learn new customs, new language and to tolerate the discrimination against the Chinese that was so prevalent in America. Ultimately this is a story about sisters and their relationships. Pearl and May are so very different and yet at the same time complimentary. I doubt either could be happy without the other.

I enjoy historical novels especially when they are so beautifully written. The wonderful descriptive prose made the story come alive. I listened to the audio version and Janet Song’s narration was a pleasure to listen to. I was captivated by the sisters story and eagerly listened for hours at a time stopping only to change the batteries on my mini mp3 player.

I missed reading this book when it came out a few years ago. I read it now because I want to read the just published Dreams of Joy, Lisa See’s newest novel and the sequel to Shanghai Girls. Highly recommended.
Source: Audio borrowed from the library.


Leave a Comment
  1. BermudaOnion / May 29 2011 8:01 pm

    I love books set in Asia and got to see Lisa See last week. I’m really anxious to read her work.


  2. Kay / May 30 2011 9:40 am

    I missed the book club meeting last year where my group read this book. I have yet to catch up and want to read this one so I can go on to the new one. We did SNOW FLOWER AND THE SECRET FAN a few years ago and I’d like to see that movie when it comes out this summer.


    • Leslie / May 30 2011 10:18 am

      I completely missed this one when it first came out. It was only after I requested a copy of Dreams of Joy that I realized this was part one of the story.


  3. Beth F / May 30 2011 4:42 pm

    I love LIsa See and have read almost all her Asia books — I just got the new one last week.


  4. notjustlaura / May 31 2011 12:41 am

    Thanks for visiting NotJustReading 🙂

    I’ve got Shanghai Girls on my wishlist and, after reading your review, am very tempted to say ‘Blow the diet!’ and order it from the library!


    • Leslie / May 31 2011 1:10 am

      It’s definitely worth blowing the diet. You won’t be disappointed.


  5. Anna (Diary of an Eccentric) / Jun 7 2011 12:23 pm

    I loved this book, and can’t wait to read Dreams of Joy. Glad to see you enjoyed it, too. I will link to your review on War Through the Generations.



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