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!