Shanghai Girls (Jill)

Shanghai Girls
By Lisa See
Completed May 12, 2009

Shanghai Girls is the latest book by best-selling author, Lisa See. Readers have raved about her Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, which I have not read, but I jumped at the opportunity to read See’s latest book. Overall, I was not disappointed.

Pearl and May were young Chinese women living in Shanghai before the Japanese invasion in World War II. They modeled as “beautiful girls” – young ladies who exhibited the modern Chinese woman: young, vibrant, intelligent and happy-go-lucky (with no bound feet!). When their father gambled away their earnings, the girls faced an arranged marriage, which would alleviate their father’s debt. Devastated, Pearl and May faced the reality that they would leave their beloved Shanghai and the modern lifestyle they carved for themselves.

Then, the Japanese invaded Shanghai, and Pearl and May struggled to stay ahead of the “monkey men.” They eventually met their husbands in Los Angeles, living with their husband/strangers and an overbearing father-in-law. From this point of the story, we learned about the treatment of Chinese-Americans before World War II and during the Red Scare. Like many times in American history, politics and fear clouded our country’s decisions, and Pearl and her family fell victim to prejudice.

Shanghai Girls was written only from Pearl’s viewpoint. She began the story as a 20-year-old-woman and ended the story in her forties. Through her eyes, we learned about Chinese traditions, the atrocities of the Japanese invasion of China and the prejudice against the Chinese. The historical information provided in this story was educational and interesting. If you like historical fiction, then Shanghai Girls should pique your interest.

My only complaint about this book was the pace. See dropped the reader into the middle of the story line, where we lived the story with the characters, and then fast-forwarded through other parts (in a “show, not tell” way). The fast-forwarded parts, in my opinion, could have been told differently – or perhaps deleted. If it’s not interesting enough for the story line to give it a full treatment, then maybe it’s not important to include it?

Despite this shortcoming, I recommend Shanghai Girls to readers who enjoy historical fiction, learning about different cultures and women’s history. I look forward to reading Snow Flower and the Secret Fan someday soon. ( )

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One Response to “ Shanghai Girls (Jill) ”

  1. If you liked this one, you should LOVE Snow Flower, an all time fav of mine,

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