- Fizzy Thoughts: Shanghai Girls

Shanghai Girls

Thursday, May 07, 2009


Shanghai Girls
Lisa See
May 2009
528 pages

You all know I love Lisa See, right? I gush about her and two of her books (Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Peony in Love) on a regular basis. I even told you a little bit about what she said at the Festival of Books. So you can imagine how excited I was to get my paws on an ARC of Shanghai Girls (and beaucoup thanks to Beth Fish for that).

But (could you see that coming?), I’m just a teensy bit disappointed in this latest book…despite the fact that it is an interesting and well-told story.

Shanghai Girls is the story of two sisters, Pearl and May. The story starts in Shanghai in 1937. Pearl and May live care-free, pampered lives. They spend their time modeling for calendars, going out on the town, and shopping. However, everything falls apart when their father’s gambling debts catch up with him and he arranges marriages for his daughters to cover his debts. Since Pearl and May consider themselves modern women who will marry for love, this sudden announcement not only ruins their vision of their perfect future, but also their trust in their father. The two sisters go through with the arranged marriages to the Louie brothers, but they have no intention of following through on their promise to follow Sam and Vern to Los Angeles.

Unfortunately for Pearl and May, the Japanese invasion of China further ruins their plans. As the girls struggle to escape, they eventually realize that Los Angeles is their only option. Months later, they finally arrive in Los Angeles, only to be further disillusioned by what awaits them.

Eventually, Pearl and May carve out lives for themselves and the years pass until we arrive at the end of the book. And this is where it all fell apart. Because I did not like the end. At all. Joy pissed me off (although I’m sure she’ll piss most everyone off), Sam, well all I can say there is WTF?!?, and the very, very end? Aaaaaagh! Am I to assume there will be a sequel? I wasn’t emotionally prepared for that possibility. I’m all about instant gratification…I need to know what happens!!!

Okay, now that I’ve gotten that off of my chest, I did like the book. Really, I did. It’s got all the classic Lisa See elements – great story, tension between characters, interesting historical details (and this time we get both China and LA...in fact, the glimpses into China City and Olvera St and LA during the 1940s and 1950s were fascinating). So don’t let the fact that I’m seriously annoyed with the ending stop you from this marvelousness. I’ll even give you a chance to share the joy (and frustration). If you’re interested in getting your paws on this ARC, let me know in the comments and I’ll draw a winner tomorrow morning.

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Sorry, I had to growl a bit more about the ending. I guess I haven't quite purged all of the frustration.

17 comment(s):

Ti said...

I skimmed this review as I am also reading Shanghai Girls right now. You and I are on similar reading kicks. I just finished Half of a Yellow Sun which you just reviewed a little while ago too.

I also bought Caspian Rain. Hmmm.

Beth F said...

I can't believe how fast you got to this one! I still haven't read it. And now I'm sorry to hear it might not be as great as the first two, which I LOVED. I am still excited to read the novel, however.

Of course, don't enter me in the giveaway.

softdrink said...

Beth - I think I would have liked it more had I not loved Peony and Snow Flower so much...I just wasn't ready for the possibility of a sequel and it threw me. It's still totally worth reading, though.

Ti - Caspian Rain, Story of a Marriage...they're both in the to be read soon pile.

Joanne said...

So I've never read anything by Lisa See before, but since a copy of Peony In Love came into the store today I think I will give it a shot. I've been peeking at it all afternoon and I do like the writing style quite a bit so far :)

Jo-Jo said...

I really enjoyed this book, but I have read a couple of reviews that indicate a dislike in the ending. I'm sorry you didn't enjoy this one as much as her previous novels.

bermudaonion said...

Sorry you were disappointed. This will be my first Lisa See book and I'm looking forward to it.

Victor said...

Cowboy220 I am from Las Vegas Nevada U S A. Consider an inocent bribe. I will be residing in Shanghai very soon. Designate me as a winnern or runner up and I wll be pleased to escort you on the town Shanghai of course to your favorite dining and showplace. Found your blog a sheer delight.

Carrie K said...

Now im dying of curiousity...must read this!!

*crossing my fingers for the win*

oh and i meant to say thanks for all the FoB coverage...so fun to read about the stuff you saw!

Melody said...

OK, I haven't read anything by this author but I do have Peony in Love in my pile.

I'm sorry you were disappointed with this book. Let's hope the next book will be better!

Belle said...

It's awful when an ending just doesn't do it for the characters. The rest of the story sounds interesting, though.

Gentle Reader said...

Wow, you zipped through this one! The ending sounds problematic, but after seeing her at the FOB, I'm definitely going to read it. Thanks for the review :)

Bookfool said...

I hope the ending doesn't disappoint me as much as it did you. Forewarned is forearmed. I'll go into it knowing the ending's a bit of a cliffhanger, so thanks for that.

No Name Me said...

Thanks for this review, Fizzy; I had this book on MY reading list (100 books out! The list keeps going!).

I am going to get it, though. You got me interested.

Stephanie said...

Sometimes the ending can ruin a whole book. GLad to hear that you still enjoyed it, even if it left you a little unfufilled!

LisaMM said...

I agree on the ending! And I love her but this one wasn't my favorite.

Natasha @ Maw Books said...

I skimmed over the plot summary because I didn't want it ruined. I have Snow Flower and the Secret Fan on my bookshelf and have always meant to read it sooner rather than later.

Anna said...

Sorry this one was a bit disappointing for you. I'll be reading it soon, and I'm excited, as it's my first Lisa See book.

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S.I. Hayakawa

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
~Mark Twain

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