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49 Reviews
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Book club
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.
Published 20 months ago by CarolB

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3.0 out of 5 stars Cheap trick! Incomplete!!!
as Ursula's review points out, there is "no ending" to this book, it just drops off. others have mentioned boredom & shallowness starting around when the sisters settle down with their american family. all this is because, we now know!, around that point the author (or her agent) apparently got the bright idea to CONTINUE THE STORY IN ANOTHER BOOK, "Dreams of Joy,"...
Published on 23 Feb. 2012 by Zangiku

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Book club, 13 Sept. 2013
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This review is from: Shanghai Girls (Kindle Edition)
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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3.0 out of 5 stars Cheap trick! Incomplete!!!, 23 Feb. 2012
By 
Zangiku (Kyoto, Japan) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Shanghai Girls (Paperback)
as Ursula's review points out, there is "no ending" to this book, it just drops off. others have mentioned boredom & shallowness starting around when the sisters settle down with their american family. all this is because, we now know!, around that point the author (or her agent) apparently got the bright idea to CONTINUE THE STORY IN ANOTHER BOOK, "Dreams of Joy," recently released. the writer therefore palpably loses interest in her characters and begins to manipulate them solely towards setting up the next book: transforming the current story, which started off so sincerely, into a disconnected series of hastily concocted & badly sketched events which strain credulity, simply in order to create a "cliff-hanger" so readers will have to buy the next installment. this is a cheap trick to perpetrate on readers emotionally, intellectually and financially... not to mention a gross insult to the very important historical period covered by the book, which was so compellingly well done in the first half. even a TV series has the decency to add "part one" to the first of 2 or more installments which will end with the title "To Be Continued." LOUSY CHEAP TRICK, LISA, YOU OUGHT TO BE ASHAMED! YOU HAVE LOST THIS READER AND WILL CERTAINLY LOSE MORE. but maybe you feel you have to resort to cheap tricks when you know you will never have the depth of spirit or the skill of Amy Tan.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Riches to rags Chinese historical fiction and sibling rivalry, 12 Feb. 2011
This review is from: Shanghai Girls (Paperback)
I must admit, it was the cover of the "beautiful girls" and being from a Chinese author that intrigued me enough to make me pick up this book.

The story is about two sisters May and Pearl, very different in character from a well off family living in Shanghai. Here they live a frivolous and luxurious life until their father gambles away the family's wealth. To pay off his debts, the sisters are sold as unwilling brides to suitors who have travelled from Los Angeles to find Chinese wives.

From this point onwards, the sisters go through a series of traumatic events that they would never have dreamed of during their "beautiful girls" days and eventually concede to building a life in America with their respective husbands, amidst the anti Chinese prejudices if only to give Joy, an American born daughter the chance of a future that they never had.

I found the novel gripping and it had me in tears once or twice.The novel is also full of twists and secrets but if you read carefully, there are already some clues to what these secrets are. I would have given this full marks if there wasn't one tragedy after another. The ending is somewhat of an anticlimax, however, having read Lisa See's Wikipedia page, she is currently working on a sequel which will hopefully tell us what happens next!
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shanghai Girls, 21 Feb. 2009
By 
L. F. Sells "starfire" (Oklahoma City, OK USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Shanghai Girls (Hardcover)
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.

Growing up in Shanghai, the Paris of Asia, Pearl and her sister May live lives of privilege. Being a Dragon, Pearl is seen by her parents as a fiery, strong daughter who can take care of her self-absorbed Sheep sister. By the time she is 21, Pearl and May enjoy the status of being Beautiful Girls, Pearl rather insensitive to those who serve her and her wealthy family.

But then Pearl's journey into suffering begins. Her father loses his money in gambling debts and the sisters are forced into arranged marriages. The Japanese attack China and Shanghai is attacked by air and the country invaded. In the process Pearl and her mother are brutalized by Japanese soldiers and her mother is killed.

Having lost everything, Pearl and May are forced to flee to America to find their husbands. Surviving a grueling stay at Angel Island (the Ellis Island of the West), Pearl can only hope that her husband Sam and his family will accept her since she is bringing with her a new born daughter named Joy.

Much of Shanghai Girls centers on Pearl's attempt to adjust to life as a member of the Louie family. While May seeks happiness outside the home in her new country, especially in terms of her many associations with the glitzy world of Hollywood, Pearl sees her life as unending drudgery as she is locked into a routine of cleaning and cooking, working in her father-in-law's various business enterprises, and caring for Joy. In addition, she is largely responsible for caring for Vern, May's young and critically ill husband.

Although her father-in-law gradually comes to include Pearl, May, and Joy as true members of his family, Pearl grows closer to her mother-in-law, and discovers that her lower class husband is indeed an Ox in the truest sense, deeply loving and caring for his family, her new Christian and much older Chinese values are tested by the terrors of the McCarthy era of anti-communism accompanied by serious mistreatment of most Chinese people.

At the end of the novel the two sisters directly confront each other at last, venting all the anger and hurt each has repressed previously. Despite being very angry at May for what Pearl feels are very good reasons, May's attacks and self-defense make her realize that she may have been mistaken in many of her core beliefs over the years.

But finally it is Joy who saves Pearl. When she reaches the point where she will give up everything for Joy, Pearl truly becomes her mother's daughter -- and in the process becomes the Dragon she was meant to be.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent, 24 May 2014
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This review is from: Shanghai Girls (Kindle Edition)
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant book, 25 Sept. 2013
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This review is from: Shanghai Girls (Paperback)
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Just the sort of book I like! A wonderful blend of social history and a ..., 7 Oct. 2014
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This review is from: Shanghai Girls (Kindle Edition)
Just the sort of book I like! A wonderful blend of social history and a fantastic story. Lisa See skilfully paints a picture of life for two sisters who are "Beautiful girls" in Shanghai in the 1930's, and then takes us on a horrific and traumatic journey with them to America. We then live with them life in the Chinese community in pre-war and post-war America. The characters are wonderfully drawn and I found myself sympathizing with both Pearl and May and the members of their extended family. I learnt a lot about the awful prejudice the Chinese suffered at the time and this enhanced my enjoyment of the book skilfully involving me in the sisters story. I must admit that to start with I felt there was a lot of description in the early stages, but this only served as a foundation for the unfolding story, without it the reader wouldn't fully understand how hard it was for Pearl and May to live in America with their "new" family or understand their eventual split loyalties. This was my first Lisa See book - but it won't be my last.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shanghai girls - a tale of modern and old china, 9 Nov. 2009
By 
Mrs. S. D. Stephenson (London , England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Shanghai Girls (Paperback)
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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5.0 out of 5 stars 4.5 - wonderful writing but slightly disappointing ending, 19 Aug. 2010
By 
This review is from: Shanghai Girls (Paperback)
Pearl and May are sisters - Pearl is the older sister and looks out for May, the more beautiful sister, who she feels is the more loved by their parents. They earn money sitting for portraits which are turned into magazine front covers.

All seems to be going well, until the day when their father admits that he has made bad decisions, has gambled and lost the family wealth. The girls must be married off to American Chinese, for dowries which will repay the family debts. The girls have one night with their husbands, and are handed tickets to sail to America. They put off the inevitable as long as possible, then we follow their journey, and their time at Ellis Island and many interviews by immigration officials, who have to determine whether their marriages are genuine.

The standing of their husbands is not as they were told, and life in America is hard. The sisters find different ways to deal with the challenges they face.

Wonderful writing, but with a slightly odd and disappointing ending.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Treasure, 12 Dec. 2011
By 
Lauren K. (New York, NY) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Shanghai Girls (Paperback)
An Affinity for Shadows

This was the first novel I read by Lisa See, and she weaves a story so interesting, so compelling that one can only look forward to the next moment to sit down and open her book again. This novel is the story of Pearl and May, two sisters who are high class models in China, and by the ugliness of war and the Communist regime are reduced to being sold as brides. They shirk their fate, choosing instead to attempt an escape, and the bonds of sisterhood and family are challenged in the most amazing and many times, agonizing ways. The reader is transported to the world of Shanghai, Angel Island, and finally Los Angeles alongside the sisters, and feels their happiness and pain as they struggle to make a better life for themselves. This book brought me to a new understanding of what my own parents and what every immigrant in the 1950s went through, although their experience was not nearly as grueling.
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