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Monday, July 18, 2011

Shanghai Girls: A Novel

In this compelling novel written by Lisa See, two upper-middle class young women from late 1930’s Shanghai, China endure physical and emotional upheaval before their escape to Los Angeles after being sold by their father as wives to two Chinese men living there. We see the sisters, Pearl and May, developing maturity and strength as they go from a sheltered and carefree existence, to struggle, abuse and escape during the Japanese invasion, to a life of hard work and racial discrimination in Los Angeles. The book covers a twenty-year period during which the sisters strive to adapt to their new home, husbands and extended families, and to survive financially. Along the way, we examine the strengths and weaknesses of the sisters’ relationship with each other, coexisting with their petty jealousies and passionate trust in one another, and keeping their one secret from others for fear of upsetting their new lives in America. We see how the generations of the extended family interrelate. We also get a direct comparison of Chinese and Chinese-American cultures. The book ends without the expected finalization of the story; it is continued in See’s latest work Dreams of Joy.

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