by Lisa See
Published by Random House
Released May 2009
Purchased for Nook
In 1937 Shanghai--the Paris of Asia--twenty-one-year-old Pearl Chin and her younger sister, May, are having the time of their lives. Both are beautiful, modern, and carefree--until the day their father tells them that he has gambled away their wealth. To repay his debts, he must sell the girls as wivesto suitors who have traveled from Los Angeles to find Chinese brides. As Japanese bombs fall on their beloved city, Pearl and May set out on the journey of a lifetime, from the Chinese countryside to the shores of America.Though inseparable best friends, the sisters also harbor petty jealousies and rivalries. Along the way they make terrible sacrifices, face impossible choices, and confront a devastating, life-changing secret, but throughit all the two heroines of this astounding new novel hold fast to who they are--Shanghai girls.
This was our February read for book club. It's certainly outside of my normal reading habits, and this is why I believe that book clubs are awesome!
I wasn't in love with the book, but as far as historical fiction goes, it was very interesting. At least I think we could classify this as historical, it's obviously not pop culture anymore. Though I was personally shocked at how recently in history this took place. The author really brings you into the world of Pearl and May. For these two girls who so readily accepted the influence of the western world in while living in Shanghai, the abrupt immersion into the country they'd admired from a distance was anything but pleasant. the author follows two sisters on their journey from being beautiful girls in Shanghai, through the beginning of a war and ultimately into the culture of Asian immigration to the United States.
I felt this was a very insightful book into a period of time that is very difficult to talk about for many people. I was grateful to have read it with my book club, and I hope to read the sequel, Dreams of Joy.
This book would be good for someone who enjoys historical fiction set during periods of war with a lot of cultural references. There is a scene of extreme brutality in the book during the period that the girls are leaving Shanghai that may be too graphic for some readers.