Shanghai Girls

shanghai-girlsThis year, my brother and I gave my mom a gift card to for her birthday.  This ended up being a gift for me also because she bought Shanghai Girls and The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane and gave them to me after she read them.  I was eagerly awaiting Shanghai Girls because I loved Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, and I had heard a lot of good things about See’s newest novel. 
I was certainly not disappointed.  In her usual fashion, See researched the topic so well that you get an accurate feel for the time period and setting.  The novel follows two sisters, Pearl and May, through the years 1937-1957.  They are in Shanghai for the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Shanghai Battle, and end up escaping Shanghai to emigrate to the United States to meet their husbands from arranged marriages.  Upon arrival in the United States, they are interned at Angel Island with other Chinese immigrant women.  When they are finally granted entrance to America, they then face the Chinese Exclusion Act and McCarthyism.  I found this story to be a really interesting look at a dark period in American history.  It made me want to check out some of the sources listed in the Acknowledgements section to learn more.
The novel is similar to Snow Flower and the Secret Fan in that it explores the role of women in culture and the relationship between two women.  Being sisters instead of friends, Pearl and May are best friends and rivals, and the novel centers around the ups and downs of their relationship. 
While I enjoyed Shanghai Girls, it didn’t quite live up to Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.  The ending is really abrupt and there were some sections where the plot lagged a bit.  I would still suggest it to anyone who is interested in Chinese-American fiction. 

5 thoughts on “Shanghai Girls

  1. I want to read this very much. But I am being good and waiting for the paperback. I suppose I could get it from the library.

    I can’t remember, did you read Peony in Love? I’d be interested to hear how it compares to that one because I liked Peony better than Snow Flower.

    • I have not read Peony in Love, but I’m thinking of making it my pick for book club because my turn is coming up soon and the library has many copies. (We’re mostly librarians so we don’t like to buy books if possible). I’m going to have trouble making myself wait to read it though.

  2. I think the only things I’ve read along these lines are Memoir of a Geisha and Joy Luck Club (hugely popular, therefore even I read them!). Not that I’m against Chinese-American stories…I prefer non-fic 🙂

    • I’m a big fan of Chinese-American stories. I love Amy Tan (Hundred Secret Senses is my fave), and Memoirs of a Geisha is one of my favorite books of all time. Lisa See is great at historical accuracy, but a little something was missing from the flow of the story in this one. Still a great read though.

  3. Great review! I really enjoyed Shanghai Girls when I read it last month, I found the Chinese and American history in it so interesting. I just can’t decide which I like better out of Peony, SG and The Snow Flower and the Secret Fan though.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s