The New York Times bestselling author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Peony in Love, and Shanghai Girls has garnered international acclaim for her great skill at rendering the intricate relationships of women and the complex meeting of history and fate. Now comes Lisa See's highly anticipated new novel, China Dolls.
It's 1938 in San Francisco: a world's fair is preparing to open on Treasure Island, a war is brewing overseas, and the city is alive with possibilities. Grace, Helen, and Ruby, three young women from very different backgrounds, meet by chance at the exclusive and glamorous Forbidden City nightclub. Grace Lee, an American-born Chinese girl, has fled the Midwest with nothing but heartache, talent, and a pair of dancing shoes. Helen Fong lives with her extended family in Chinatown, where her traditional parents insist that she guard her reputation like a piece of jade. The stunning Ruby Tom challenges the boundaries of convention at every turn with her defiant attitude and no-holds-barred ambition.
The girls become fast friends, relying on one another through unexpected challenges and shifting fortunes. When their dark secrets are exposed and the invisible thread of fate binds them even tighter, they find the strength and resilience to reach for their dreams. But after the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, paranoia and suspicion threaten to destroy their lives, and a shocking act of betrayal changes everything.
Only three things cannot be long hidden:
and the truth.
(Attributed to Buddha)
P a r t O n e
October 1938July 1940
A Measly Girl
I traveled west alone on the cheapest bus routes I could find. Every mile took me farther from Plain City, Ohio, where I'd been a flyspeck on the wallpaper of small-town life. Each new state I passed through loosened another rope around my heart, my legs, my arms, yet my whole body ached and I couldn't shake my vertigo. I lived on aspirin, crackers, and soda pop. I cried and cried and cried. On the eighth day, California. Many hours after crossing the boundary, I got off the bus and pulled my sweater a little more tightly around me. I expected sun and warmth, but on that October afternoon, fog hung over San Francisco, damp, and shockingly cold.
Picking up my suitcase, I left the bus station and started to walk. The receptionists at the cheap hotels I visited told me they were full. "Go to ...
It is impossible not to be impressed by the vast amount of research that went into this novel. From Chinatown nightclubs and a Hollywood studio to Japanese internment camps, Lisa See knows her settings through and through, and uses them as a vibrant backdrop for this touching story of three "true-heart friends."
(Reviewed by Rebecca Foster).
Full Review (1109 words).
San Francisco's Chinatown (the setting of Lisa See's China Dolls) is the oldest in the United States, and the largest confluence of Chinese people and culture outside of Asia. Last year the San Francisco Planning Department announced that Chinatown is "the most densely populated urban area west of Manhattan" – some 15,000 residents live in just 20 square blocks. Although there are now four Chinatown areas in San Francisco, the main and original one, established in 1848, is located on Grant Avenue and Stockton Street. The Grant Avenue entrance is guarded by the Dragon Gate, erected in 1970, and the thoroughfare is lined with original 1920s streetlights shaped like golden dragons.
Between the 1850s and 1900s, Chinatown was the ...
If you liked China Dolls, try these:
San Francisco's Chinatown, 1940: Miranda Corbie, a private investigator, stumbles upon the fatally shot body of Eddie Takahashi. The Chamber of Commerce wants it covered up. The cops acquiesce. But Miranda wants justice - whatever it costs.
Emma Donoghue digs up a long-forgotten, never-solved crime in a lyrical tale of love and bloodshed among lowlifes, capturing the pulse of a boomtown like no other.
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