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Shanghai Girls [Hardcover]

Lisa See
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)

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Book Description

26 May 2009
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 father’s 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 couldn’t 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 Chinatown’s old ways and rules.

At its heart, Shanghai Girls is a story of sisters: Pearl and May are inseparable best friends who share hopes, dreams, and a deep connection, but like sisters everywhere they also harbor petty jealousies and rivalries. They love each other, but each knows exactly where to drive the knife to hurt the other the most. Along the way they face terrible sacrifices, make impossible choices, and confront a devastating, life-changing secret, but through it all the two heroines of this astounding new novel hold fast to who they are–Shanghai girls.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 314 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (NY); First Edition edition (26 May 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400067111
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400067114
  • Product Dimensions: 2.7 x 15.6 x 23.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,462,806 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


PRAISE FOR SNOWFLOWER AND THE SECRET FAN 'Lisa See has written her best book yet Achingly beautiful' Amy Tan, author of The Joy Luck Club 'Only the best novelists can do what Lisa See has done, to bring to life not only a character but an entire culture' Arthur Golden, author of Memoir of a Geisha PRAISE FOR PEONY IN LOVE 'See's writing beguiled me A brave, brilliant book' Guardian 'A hauntingly beautiful novel of unrequited love' She --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Lisa See is the author of five previous novels, including the critically acclaimed New York Times bestsellers Peony in Love and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Flower Net (which was nominated for an Edgar Award), The Interior, and Dragon Bones. She is also the author of the widely acclaimed memoir On Gold Mountain. She lives in Los Angeles. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shanghai Girls 21 Feb 2009
Shanghai Girls (Random House Large Print (Cloth/Paper))
Lisa's See's new novel, Shanghai Girls, provides a rich experience for its readers - taking them from the splendor, highlife, glamour and poverty of 1937 Shanghai to the struggles of Chinese immigrants to survive a virtual internment on Angel Island, off the coast of San Francisco, to the almost impossible challenges of trying to build a life in Los Angeles Chinatown in the context of an America that does not want them and treats them cruelly.

But despite its rich background, Shanghai Girls is ultimately the story of two sisters - Pearl and May - who desperately strive to help each other survive and at the same time replay in their minds and actions old rivalries, jealousies, and hurts. The summary of the book on See's web site puts it well: "They love each other but they also know exactly where to drive the knife to hurt the other sister the most." This is most dramatically shown in the novel's climax.

Pearl, speaking in first person, is the narrator, taking us from 1937 to 1957. This time period matches Parts IV and V of See's On Gold Mountain: The One-Hundred-Year Odyssey of My Chinese-American Family. The perspectives are different, however. In the memoir See is scrupulously objective in treatment family members, herself, and issues very close to her. Pearl lets us experience some of the same American experiences but from a different perspective and from the inside.
Late in the novel, Pearl reflects: "We're told that men are strong and brave, but I think women know how to endure, accept defeat, and bear physical and mental agony much better than men." This is certainly true of Pearl herself.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant book 25 Sep 2013
By gin
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
a real page turner i couldnt put it down. If you like amy tan type books, this is for you. set in shanghai and america, it's a lovely story.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Book club 13 Sep 2013
By CarolB
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I read this book while on a world cruise on Cunard. The reading club met once a week and discussed the book. I have never done that before and found quite exciting to be able to give my impression of this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent 24 May 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book was excellent. Once you start it you cannot put it down. It will make you feel so many different emotions. I would recommend this book
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
At first glancing at the book I was wondering if the book reflected only modern china , but the story was enthralling. (albeit it took me 2/3 chapters to start) There are some very powerful moments in the book that provoke strong emotion and again give you the real sense of china and how it has developed. the story is about young girls in Shanghai who live a lavish lifestyle only then to be ruined by their father and have to take a very long journey for their survival. I love the author Lisa See and recommend all her books for lovers for Asian fiction.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FANTASTIC READ! 1 Feb 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Had to read it only because my reading group is reading the sequel this week - and I joined after they had read Shanghai Girls. It's gripping, sad and hopeful all a the same time, and I cant wait to go on and read the sequel!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Slow and drawn out 27 Oct 2009
I read 'Peony in Love' and really liked the story and storytelling.
When 'Shanghai Girls' came out, I bought it too, in the hope that this story would be just as fascinating.
But what a disappointment. It was OK in some parts but got worse the further the story got. Lisa See is just droning on and on about things that could have been told in a couple of pages, like the Angel Island part, which went on for too long.
After suffering through more pages about Pearl and May settling down in their husbands' apartment, I just couldn't bear to continue reading the story and threw the book out.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Terrible Ending 4 Jun 2009
By Ursula K. Raphael TOP 1000 REVIEWER
This story is about two sisters, Pearl and May, who expect to have a life as "beautiful girls" in Shanghai -- their "Paris of Asia." They are shocked to find out that their father has arranged marriages for them, to make good on a tremendous debt. They were led to believe that they would be able to make decisions for themselves, and not live in the past as their mother has done, so -- naturally -- they fight the arrangements.

They do get married, but they do not leave China with their new husbands as planned, which is very near the time when the Japanese invade. As a result of this decision to stay behind, they are put through a series of traumatic events. Eventually, they decide the best thing would be to go to their husbands in America, but this does not end their suffering.

After they leave Angel Island, they are tested even further. Once they stop fighting their fates, their lives finally find some happiness. This happiness is marred by the treatment of Chinese in America because of being mistaken for Japanese, and then being accused of spying for Communist China.

Pearl and May have been keeping a lot of secrets between themselves during their lives, and eventually, Pearl's daughter finds out the truth about her family. She is furious with her mother and Aunt May, and makes a drastic decision that tears apart what is left of the only family they have.

The story is told by Pearl, as if she is speaking directly to the reader face-to-face, and I enjoyed the POV immensely. I was very interested in the characters, and often felt like I was there with them. However, the ending was extremely disappointing, compared with the rest of the book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Definitely worth a read
Published 10 days ago by Jessica
5.0 out of 5 stars Shanghai
Good book insight to other cultures and what happened in China during the culture revolution .glad it was not me enjoyed the book
Published 7 months ago by nadine li
4.0 out of 5 stars Just reading it
If you haven't read any Lisa See books please try them. Gruesome in parts but wonderfully descriptive. If you want to know more about China a must buy.
Published 9 months ago by Nutty Tart
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Story
Wasn't sure I would enjoy this book but it was amazing and I couldn't put it down.
I read it on holiday which always makes it easier but would definitely look out for more... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Jane Wilson
5.0 out of 5 stars Lisa See fans won't be disappointed
I'm a sucker for Asian based fiction and this does not disappoint- well written and likable characters. Would recommend, along with Lisa See's other books!
Published 15 months ago by Shelley
5.0 out of 5 stars Shanhai Girls
Shanghai was a lovely book to read - I coildn't put it down. - I loved it so much that I bought the follow up 'Dreams of Joy'.
Published 15 months ago by lily
5.0 out of 5 stars fantastic read
Wow after reading 'Snow Flower and the Secret Fun' this was an excellent book to read soon after thank you
Published 17 months ago by Rachael
5.0 out of 5 stars What a pleasant surprise.
A was a bit skeptical during the first chapter or two, then I was hooked. Great way to re-learn that part of history. Had to go on to the second book "Dream of Pearl". Read more
Published 17 months ago by ana carrillo
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed immensley
Another hit from Lisa See you feel that you are carried away to another world,simple but compelling.Book arrived promptly and in good condition,
Published 19 months ago by A S Williams
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