Sunday, February 27

Book Review: Shanghai Girls

Title: Shanghai Girls

Author: Lisa See

Pages: 309

Summary: 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 and that to repay his debts, he must sell the girls as wives to 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 through it all the two heroines of this astounding new novel hold fast who they are - Shanghai girls.

My Rating: 7.25/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: Overall I enjoyed the book, but it wasn’t exactly what I expected, especially compared to Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, which I loved and had a hard time putting down, this book just fell short.

Shanghai girl was a good book, make no mistake there. The author did a wonderful job at emerging the reading into life in Shanghai - bringing the noises, smells and people on the streets to life. The author has a stunning ability in bringing the reader right in the centre of the setting and brings it to life. I was lost in reading about different aspects of Shanghai, the rickshaw drivers, the descriptions of “New China Town” in California - everything the author in wrote in this regard was brilliantly done.

I also enjoyed the overall story and the journey the two sisters took. Although I did find it to drag out a lot and at times became bored with it because at times the story just stood still for me. I liked the story about the struggle the girls faced, but at times their journey to the end just didn’t capture me as much. I did however, enjoy the ending, it was abrupt, but I still liked it. I think it fitted with the story as whole, as to how the girls never knew what to expect next, never had any certainty in their life. But, the biggest issue with the plot is it felt like it dragged at times, which caused me to lose interest easily.

My biggest issue with the book was the characters. I just didn’t connect to them at all, and they constantly got on my nerves. They faced some horrible, horrible things in their lives, and although it shocked me, I just couldn’t connect to them on an emotional level. Pearl in particular as character I just couldn’t relate to and there were times I wanted to smack her. I didn’t like her how she always whined about how everyone loves May more, how May was favoured, but did nothing to earn the respect she thought May had more of. She spent more time waiting around and feeling sorry for her self, then trying to live life she envied my for. May’s character, although a little vain at times, at least attempted something with her life, faced almost the same events as Pearl, but at least she tried to make something out of her new life. I wished the reader could have seen more from May’s point of view. I would have liked to get inside May’s head, as opposed to Pearls, or perhaps two separate narratives. The book is told through Pearl’s point of view, and I think it would have been a different experience if we could have seen what May was thinking. The reader does get a glimpse near the end, but I would have liked more.

Overall it was a good book, not a bad plot, stunning descriptions of the setting, just not what I was expecting.

Would I recommend it to read: I would recommend it to read, because it was a good book. It wasn’t on the same level as the previous book I read by the author, but still a well written book, with a brilliant ability to pull the reader into the setting

What to read next: The Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, The Sisters of Hardscrabble Bay


  1. I really admire See's writing, but for some reason, I have held off on reading this book. I am not sure what the reason for this is, but hearing what you have to say about it makes me feel a little better about having done so. I really enjoyed your thoughtful dissemination on this book, Jules. I have a feeling I might end up feeling a lot like you did about it.

  2. I really loved "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" -- and I imagine that it would be hard to write a follow-up that would be as riveting and interesting. I won this book in a giveaway last year but still haven't read it yet because I guess I was hoping for another Snow Flower in a way. I'll get to it eventually but I don't feel rushed.

  3. Zibilee - I'm glad you enjoyed the review, if you like See's writing, it's worth reading, just not one of those "must read now" books.

    Jenners - You're right it would be hard to write a follow up to Snow Flower..., it's still worth reading, I'd just not have it high on the tbr list.

  4. I really enjoyed this book. I couldn't really relate to either of the main characters, but that didn't stop me from loving it. Can't wait for the sequel.

  5. diaryofanecentric -I had no idea that there even was a sequel. I kind of like how it ended without the idea of a sequel. But I may still have to check it out when it comes out.

  6. I think it's called Dreams of Joy. I thought the ending was fine as it was, but I remember seeing some reviews that thought See left them hanging.

  7. Diaryofaneccentric - Hmm, I may have to keep an eye out for the sequel then, thanks for sharing.