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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful heartbreaking story
In the 1950's Nineteen year old Joy Louie runs away from her American home to search for her real father who is a famous artist living in Shanghai.She doesn't know who she can trust as she was told that the woman she thought was her mother is her aunt, and her aunt is her mother.Confusing but all will become clear as you read the story.
The story takes place during...
Published on 28 Jun. 2011 by Blue Moon

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1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
Not yet finished reading it but struggling to get through it
Published 6 months ago by Busy mom


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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful heartbreaking story, 28 Jun. 2011
This review is from: Dreams of Joy (Kindle Edition)
In the 1950's Nineteen year old Joy Louie runs away from her American home to search for her real father who is a famous artist living in Shanghai.She doesn't know who she can trust as she was told that the woman she thought was her mother is her aunt, and her aunt is her mother.Confusing but all will become clear as you read the story.
The story takes place during the rule of Chairman Mao and he has just launched his Great Leap Forward.It follows Joy through her frightening experiences as she journeys from America to China and eventually to Green Dragon Village.
What happens there I can only describe as a heartbreaking existence in a rural commune that is facing starvation.
However a handsome young comrade catches her eye and life is filled with a new sense of hope. Aunt Pearl arrives in China to try and bring her daughter back home, and the adventure continues.
This is wonderful epic journey which had me mesmorised as the story unfolded page by page.
If like me you didn't know much about the the Great Leap Forward in 1950's China this has been well researched by Lisa See and I'm so pleased that I read this book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lisa See Finally Won Me Over, 15 Oct. 2011
By 
Ursula K. Raphael "AstraDaemon of The Zombiep... (USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Dreams of Joy (Paperback)
In the previous novel, Shanghai Girls, Pearl and May are forced into arranged marriages, which lead to the sisters living in America. Eventually they find happiness in their new lives, after several traumatic events, but they are accused of spying for Communist China & this tears the family apart.

Pearl and May have been keeping a lot of secrets, and at the end of the first novel, Pearl's daughter Joy makes several discoveries. She becomes furious with her mother and Aunt May, and makes a drastic decision to leave her home.

I was really critical of Pearl's sudden revelations at the end of Shanghai Girls, and I felt that the ending was too blunt; I didn't know that there would be a sequel, but I still think the ending of the first novel could have been written better.

Having ripped on Lisa See over just one part of Shanghai Girls, I felt I should read Dreams of Joy to be fair to the author. Not being a fan, I can honestly say that Dreams of Joy is one of the best novels I have read in 2011. I read it in one sitting, and was so moved by the plights of Pearl and Joy that I have been dreaming about the characters and settings for several nights in a row. I cannot get the imagery out of my head.

Joy finds her biological father, ZG, and goes to the countryside with him, where she works in the fields. It's a culture shock for Joy, but she embraces her new life. Pearl tries to follow Joy's trail, but she is apprehended by the authorities, and must convince them that she is not a traitor or spy. Pearl also hides the fact that she is looking for her American-born daughter. Pearl must confront many ghosts from her past, and Joy must reconcile her ideals with reality.

There are so many strong elements in this book that I don't even know where to begin. I thought switching the POV between Joy and Pearl made the story that more dramatic. Viewing Communist China through Joy's enthusiasm and Pearl's reluctance made me appreciate the differences between their generations, and the cultural contrast between China and the US. The references to their family's recent past (ex: the fight between May and Pearl, and Sam's death) helped refresh my memory of what happened in the first novel, and gave a stand-alone feel to this novel.

Usually, I am not fond of authors who spend too much time describing the settings, but the author did a brilliant job of using the characters to emphasize the dialects of the languages, the distinction of their clothing, and the disparity of living conditions in China. I also dislike author's notes, but I enjoyed reading the note from Lisa See at the end of the book. I appreciate the tremendous amount of research that she put into her writing. In fact, I was inspired to read several non-fiction books about the time period in Dreams of Joy because See's novel offered such a wealth of information about such a controversial era in history. For instance, I had no idea that their bras were confiscated as signs of "Western decadence" upon entering China.

Any reservations that I had about Lisa See's writing have been settled by Dreams of Joy. I think I might have to read some of her other books now.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Story and Sequel to Shanghai Girls, 2 Jan. 2012
This review is from: Dreams of Joy (Paperback)
Dreams of Joy is the sequel to Shanghai Girls. Those of you who have read Shanghai Girls will remember that Joy had just found out that her mother Pearl isn't really her mother at all but her aunt, and that her biological father is an artist still living in China. With the impulsiveness and surety of youth, Joy gives up her American life and travels to Communist China to 'help build the New China'. Looking at everything through rose-tinted glasses, she thinks she has found a rural idyll and a simple life far away from the consumerism and prejudice she has experienced in America. So she thinks nothing of surrendering her passport, of losing her ability to travel around China, of falling in love with a man from the village (now Dandelion Commune number eight). Pearl, with the wisdom of experience, can see the trouble her daughter is involving herself with and also abandons everything to travel to China in an attempt to bring her home.

I was apprehensive about reading Dreams of Joy, as I enjoyed Shanghai Girls so much, but I shouldn't have worried - I loved it. Throughout the whole first half of the book, as Joy embraced Communist China and commune life and all it stood for I wanted to reach through the book and shake her. Having studied The Great Leap Forward and Communist China, I had a great sense of foreboding and was waiting for the other shoe to drop. Joy is so headstrong and so determined to love everything about China and village life that she is beyond being made to see otherwise, and at a certain point, Pearl has to let her make her own mistakes. Other reviewers have complained of Joy's naivety for thinking everything is charming and perfect in the communes, but I thought it fit with her character - when you are so determined for something to be right, you simply don't see the bad.

In the second half of the book, the other shoe drops as See starts describing the effects of The Great Leap Forward. Communes were led by leaders that had no clue about farming, leading to mistakes in planting and harvesting and consequently a radical drop in food production. At the same time, the pressure was on to have higher and higher yields leading to a massive famine, with some estimates putting it at 45 million dead. People started to abandon and even eat their own babies and children out of desperation. I thought See effectively conveyed the suffering of people that had been made to abandon the farming practises that they knew worked, for those that they knew wouldn't, but were unable to speak up due to terrible consequences for those that did. Starving must be truly a terrible way to die. Other aspects of Communist China are touched upon - meetings where 'rightist elements' are denounced, internal travel restrictions, cruelty towards anyone who had been well off before communism, unrealistic targets and announcements. As always, See had done her research and wrote about these topics knowledgeably.

Some parts of the plot did require a bit of suspension of belief in the way that the characters were able to move around the country and make plans to leave whilst remaining undetected. I also missed the character of May, who stayed in America and was only in the novel in the form of letters she wrote to Pearl. The dynamic between the two sisters was something I enjoyed about Shanghai Girls and this was missing in Dreams of Joy. But these are minor criticisms compared to how much I enjoyed reading the book - in the final chapters I was reading as fast as I could as I was desperate to see what would happen to Joy and Pearl. Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Could not put this one down, 12 Dec. 2011
By 
Lauren K. (New York, NY) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Dreams of Joy (Paperback)
When I pick up a book by Lisa See, I know that ironically as it sounds with her works of fiction, I will experience several moments of intense truth. Truth about the times, the setting, the motivations, and the basics of human nature in trying circumstances. This book placed me on edge from page one, as I traveled with Joy to Communist China, and experienced the intense world of corruption and glamor. If art is meant to inspire feelings, then this book truly succeeded as a work of art.

Liz R. Newman, Author of An Affinity for Shadows
[...]
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5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful in so many ways, 14 Aug. 2014
By 
thebooktrailer (Whereever a book takes us) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Dreams of Joy (Paperback)
Lisa See returns to the story of sisters Pearl and May from Shanghai Girls, and Pearl’s strong-willed nineteen-year-old daughter, Joy.

Joy has discovered some family secrets so has ran away to Shanghai to find her birth father—the artist Z.G. Li, with whom both May and Pearl were once in love.

Joy throws herself into the New Society of Red China, but the Communist regime holds dangers she cannot foresee. Pearl is concerned for Joy’s safety and so is determined to save her, no matter what the personal cost may be.

When Joy and Pearl’s separate journeys begin to converge, it is also the moment when one of the most tragic episodes in China’s history occurs and has personal repercussions for them both.

This book is quite the work of art! A lovely sequel to the Shanghai girls where you find out what happened next - and where you discover the truth that lies within human behaviour and the culture of the time, in the most trying of circumstances. The cover is also beautifully evocative of the culture and story inside.

this is one epic journey - set in and around the time of theGreat Leap fprward but in such an interesting way that this heavy subject matter is anything but. I was right there beside the characters feeling every emotion as they did and learning about the differences between the generations in the way Pearl and Joy both view the country’s situation at that time - understanding them if not always agreeing with them. Using their own voices to narrate the story gives the novel a feeling of intimacy and being able to literally sit beside them as they talk.

As a booktrail bonus, the settings described in this book are a very strong point of what makes the story so powerful and evocative. The landscapes - both political and cultural as well as geographical are beautifully evoked via descriptions but also via the characters reactions and their way of talking. This is one novel which made me read more of the time period in the novel and articles about people who lived through it. Could be used as a history lesson in itself but one of the most interesting and captivating you will ever have.

This is the story of Joy and Pearl after all.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, harrowing - read it!, 26 July 2014
By 
Gml Alberici "Leila" (London UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: Dreams of Joy (Kindle Edition)
This book will haunt you long after you've read it, and maybe also make you want to find out more about Mao's Great Leap Forward. The book is about Joy who always believed her mother was her aunt and her aunt was her mother - confusing but it becomes clear as the book unfolds. Joy holds a lot of guilt about the man she always believed to be her father, Sam, I won't say any more because I don't want to spoil it for those of you who haven't read this yet. The shock of her finding out that everything she believed turned out to be a lie makes her travel to China where she looks for her real father. Lisa See has a wonderful way of evoking Shanghai during this period and you can almost see and smell the city and it's people, and like everywhere, some are good and some are bad. You meet some really interesting characters, Joy does meet with her real father who is a famous artist and travels to a commune in Green Dragon Village to help him teach art to the peasants. Mao is idolised by his people and is thought of as a God who has come down to earth and to begin with Joy also sees him in this way. You also get a feel of how everyone is brainwashed into believing this. Later though thanks to Mao's grandiose reform policies which were not at all thought through the country is in the grips of absolute starvation. Again Lisa See evokes this harrowing time brilliantly - she writes about truly horrendous actions both done to and done by the peasants in such a way that it's almost as if you're there and you're starving and too weak to really comprehend the horror all around you. I don't want to say anything about any of the characters because I don't want to put down any spoilers. But I really do think that this is a book that you will think about long after you've read it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars IN LOVE WITH THIS BOOK, 22 Aug. 2012
By 
Lucy (Bristol,England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Dreams of Joy (Paperback)
Dreams of joy is a amazing book i was awfully unsure to start with but it was amazing and as the story progresses you see really how it was for people in China,even worse,in the villages where most of the book is set.

You also see the story of joys mother and it is really shocking to see what kind of things they both experience massive changes before being able to leave.

Amazing sequel on Shanghai girls

WOULD RECOMMEND! 5 star no doubt! :D
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put this down!, 4 Sept. 2011
This review is from: Dreams of Joy (Paperback)
I have to admit that I have no special interest in Chinese history or culture, so I chose this book for the story and based purely on recommendations. I love a book that takes the reader up and down emotionally, and this book did so very successfully. The reader cannot help but identify with the characters. Even though I am not always a fan of chapters having different narrators, I found that it works in this story. Now I am ordering the previous book, "Shanghai Girls"!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Communist China, 15 Aug. 2012
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This review is from: Dreams of Joy (Paperback)
Having read Shanghi Sisters, I thought this book was going to be immensely readable. It taught me a lot about a period of China's history that I'd never really paid any attention to (The Cultural Revolution) and showed what a complete and massive mistake it was. Before you think the book is very pro-American, it also gives an insight into the hypocrisy and hysteria of the McCarthy era.
Above all, however, it is the strength of the female characters that shine through this book from illiterate peasants, elderly foot-bound women and modern, educated women trying to retain their identity and claw at some hopeful vision of their future.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A worthwhile read, 20 Dec. 2014
By 
Uncle Barbar (Essex, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Dreams of Joy (Kindle Edition)
I enjoy Lisa See's works. I always find them a very good balance of great storytelling and historical education. I found this a little hard going in places. The subject matter was quite unrelenting at times. Suffice it to say that The Cultural Revolution and Chairman Mao's 'Great Leap' Forward' don't come out of this very well… All in all, though it was a satisfying read as are most of See's works.
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Dreams of Joy by Lisa See
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