Review: Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

I was fortunate to receive a free advanced reader copy of Lisa See’s new novel: Shanghai Girls (which becomes available in late May). I have read See’s other works (some reviewed here) and love, love, love her historical fiction, so I was greatly anticipating this read!

This novel tells the story of Pearl and her sister May – both “beautiful girls” (similar to models) in Shanghai in the 1930’s. After somewhat disastrous arranged marriages, and the invasion of China by the Japanese, Pearl and May begin a harrowing journey to America – to Los Angeles and their husbands – to begin a new life. This story is about new beginnings, clashing cultures, the ability to adapt, long-kept secrets, and the enduring and unending power of familial – especially sisterly – love.

I loved this book – though I have to say that it is sad and at times disturbing. I kept wanting everything to turn happy for Pearl, the main narrator, however, real life kept interfering. Pearl and May are both such strong characters. They are incredibly different, but wonderfully portrayed in both their strengths and their weaknesses. While I loved the characters, I also found it interesting to learn of the Chinese immigration process and the Chinese community within Los Angeles at that time. To be honest, I need to say I was a bit disappointed in the ending. I’m not sure if there is a possible sequel or if it is meant to leave you feeling unfinished, as life too often does.

I would recommend this book to See’s fans – definitely – and to those who enjoy reading of the Chinese culture and experience. I give it 4 1/2 stars!

What’s Been on my Nightstand!

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of fun, easy reads. Life got a little busy, so reading needed to be light!
Along with reading Miller’s “The Crucible” for a play I’m performing in, I read two of the Agatha Raisin books – both dealing with her marriage to James and the mysteries she encountered; and I also read the first book that Charles Finch – of “September Society” – wrote: “A Beautiful, Blue Death”.
This morning I finished something more intense: “Shanghai Girls” by Lisa See, so that review is coming soon!

Review: Empress Orchid

My neighborhood book club’s April pick is Empress Orchid by Anchee Min. What an interesting read! I had never heard the story of China’s last empress, Tzu Hsi (known as “Orchid” to her family). This book traces her life from the death of father while she is a teenager, to her being selected as a wife for the young Emperor, to her bearing him a son and heir, to her helping her very young son to rule China in the days near the turn of the 20th century.

I found this book interesting and engaging. Life in the Imperial court is vividly described, and Min’s style is such that I could picture it down to the last detail. Orchid is a complex character: intelligent and sensual, and at times ruthless and conniving. While this is, of course, historical fiction, I couldn’t help but think that Min had captured Orchid’s character, as she seemed so human. She is definitely a strong, female protagonist.

Min has published a sequel to this book, covering Empress Tzu Hsi’s 46 years in power. I think that I will read it! I got this copy from the library.

I give this book 4 Stars!