Sunday, November 1, 2009
Tale of Two Sisters
Title: Shanghai Girls
By: Lisa See
Sometimes I think I am the only person who didn't enjoy Lisa See's earlier novel Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. For this reason I was reluctant to try Shanghai Girls, but I found myself with a copy in my hands and decided to give it a chance. I'm glad I did! Approximately five pages in, I was immersed in the story and could barely come up for air. During the days when I wasn't able to read, I found myself daydreaming about sisters Pearl and May. The sisters lived with their well to do parents and worked as "beautiful girls" in 1930s Shanghai. They bought new dresses every week and had servants to cook and clean for them -- until their father admitted that he gambled away their money and was in debt. To pay off this debt, he promised his daughters as wives to two Chinese American men. Although Pearl and May try to escape their fate, the invasion of the Japanese turns their arranged marriage into an opportunity to flee China. Their voyage to California is horrific, and they find life in Los Angeles and "Haolaiwu" much different than they had hoped, but their perseverance and endurance of physical and mental agony is great. See has an amazing capability to transform what might be an ordinary scene into a delectable experience for the reader. This book leaves me with a new interest in the experiences of Chinese Americans during WWII and the Red Scare.
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