In 1937, Shanghai is the Paris of Asia, a city of great wealth and glamour, the home of millionaires and beggars, gangsters and gamblers, patriots and revolutionaries, artists and warlords. Thanks to the financial security and material comforts provided by their fathers prosperous rickshaw business, twenty-one-year-old Pearl Chin and her younger sister, May, are having the time of their lives. Though both sisters wave off authority and tradition, they couldnt be more different: Pearl is a Dragon sign, strong and stubborn, while May is a true Sheep, adorable and placid. Both are beautiful, modern, and carefree . . . until the day their father tells them that he has gambled away their wealth and that in order to repay his debts he must sell the girls as wives to suitors who have traveled from California to find Chinese brides.
As Japanese bombs fall on their beloved city, Pearl and May set out on the journey of a lifetime, one that will take them through the Chinese countryside, in and out of the clutch of brutal soldiers, and across the Pacific to the shores of America. In Los Angeles they begin a fresh chapter, trying to find love with the strangers they have married, brushing against the seduction of Hollywood, and striving to embrace American life even as they fight against discrimination, brave Communist witch hunts, and find themselves hemmed in by Chinatowns old ways and rules.
The only criticism that can be leveled against the book – and it's certainly minor - is that loose-ends are not wrapped up by the novel's conclusion, leading one to believe (and hope) there's another book in the works that will feature Pearl and the women around her. Regardless, Shanghai Girls is perhaps Lisa See's best novel to date. Its multi-layered themes will keep readers fascinated, while its fast-moving plot will keep them entertained. The novel is sure to please existing fans while attracting a whole new set of admirers. Highly recommended. (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).
See's emotional themes are powerful but familiar -- the bonds of sisterhood, the psychological journey of becoming an American -- and when she pauses for character development, clichés creep in... But China's 20th-century upheavals afford at least as much color as its days of old; Shanghai Girls will not lose See any fans, and it bravely moves her oeuvre into the challenging terrain of more recent history.
See is a gifted writer, and in Shanghai Girls she again explores the bonds of sisterhood while powerfully evoking the often nightmarish American immigrant experience.
New York Times - Janet Maslin Shanghai Girls is much loftier than its cover art’s stunning portrait of beautifully adorned Asian women…The detail is thoughtful and intricate in ways that hardly qualify this book as the stuff of chick lit.
"See's kaleidoscopic saga transits from the barbaric horrors of Japanese occupation to the sobering indignities suffered by foreigners in 1930s Hollywood while offering a buoyant and lustrous paean to the bonds of sisterhood.
Despite engrossing complications ... the Chinatown section, spanning 20 years, seems overlong. The final chapters, however ... are worth the wait.
Starred Review. Possibly the best book yet from the author of Peony in Love; highly recommended.
Publishers Weekly Pick of the Week
Starred Review. See explores tradition, the ravages of war and the importance of family in her excellent latest.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Charlotte GREAT! This book was fabulous the plot kept me interested in the book and it was really really good. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone. I chose to write my book report on it for school and it is turning out really great! Lisa See is a great... Read More
Rated of 5
by ch3rry not finishable Contains possible plot spoilers
I didn't like the writing, so much that when the wartime part was over I put the book away. Situations were unbelievable: mother is raped to an extent that she dies, but before that she spends an entire... Read More
Rated of 5
by dorothy Not to be missed! Lisa See has written a great book! This story is satisfying on many levels, some scenes horrifying, but seemingly truthful, and her handling of the relationship between sisters exactly right, if not (thankfully) the story of all sister... Read More
Rated of 5
by Mary T Shanghai Girls: A Novel by Lisa See Excellent read! I was riveted all the way through. The expression of feelings with the INS was fantastic. This is a "book club" read for about a dozen women who have ALL loved it!
Rated of 5
by Lil shanghai girls Shanghai Girls has alot of potential, but doesn't quite reach the mark.
Set in the 'Paris of Asia' and then in China Town LA, it presents compelling people and places. Character development is rounded for the two main characters, although not... Read More
Rated of 5
by Kelly Powerful Shanghai Girls was so powerful a book that it rules out anything I have ever read. The book was full of sadness and agony; yet it is so real. The characters are a work of fiction, but similar events have occurred in China's past. Having been... Read More
In Shanghai Girls, Pearl and May are incarcerated at the
Immigration Station after fleeing war-torn China. Angel Island was the first
stop for most Chinese entering the United States during this period; 175,000 were processed there
during its thirty years of operation.
Chinese immigration to the United States began in the mid-1800s as a result of
the California Gold Rush. Although initially welcomed, or at least tolerated, an economic downturn in the 1870s
created resentment as the immigrants willingness to work for low wages was viewed
as depriving others of gainful employment. This led to a series of
immigration laws targeting Asians, beginning with the Chinese Exclusion Act
of 1882, which banned all Chinese from entering the United States with the
exception of merchants, clergy, diplomats, teachers, students, and wives and
children of US citizens.
The 1906 earthquake and fire in San Francisco created a loophole in the
immigration act. Most municipal records...
Research shows that 90% of Americans value public libraries(Dec 11 2013) According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, about 90% of Americans aged 16 and older said that the closing of their local public library would have an...