Thursday, January 21, 2010

Book Review: Shanghai Girls

In Lisa See's latest book Shanghai Girls she leaves behind 17th and 19th century China of her last two books and takes us to 20th century America with a story of two sisters, two cultures and the resiliance of the human spirit.

May and Pearl, two sisters living in 1937 Shanghai, live privledged lives that seem perfect to them.  As that old saying goes if something seems to good to be true it is, so it is with the girls.  Their father goes bankrupt and arranges marriages for them to help him out of his financial difficulties.  When the Japanese invade they find themselves facing situations they were never prepared for.

They finally make it to Angel Island outside San Francisco.  After many months, and countless interrogations they make it to their husband's home in Los Angeles where the story covers their lives over the next twenty years.

See, who does intricate and detailed research in her books, brings to light and life a time many of us have no idea about.  The discrimination and trials May, Pearl and their family face would break many, but the sisters perservere and, eventually, triumph.  Through it all they remain more than sisters, they are best friends.

With themes of tradition, the effects of war, family and sacrifice running through it, Shanghai Girls is often an emotionally difficult and draining book to read, but I found it to be one that I was glad to have taken the time to invest in. 

If you were fortunate to have read her earlier books, particularly Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, you will find a treat in store with Shanghai Girls.  My eyes and heart were opened to many things, and I'm sure yours will be too.

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