When I first set my eyes on this novel, Shanghai Girls by Lisa See in Borders years ago, I told myself that I will have a read some day. Although I was not certain if the some day will ever come. Now, the some day finally came and yes, I finally read the book after putting it off for so many years.
Shanghai Girls is about two sisters who were 3 years apart, Pearl and May who grew up in Shanghai, Paris of Asia, pre-WWII. They are modern beautiful Chinese girls who believed in making their own destiny. They could communicate in English , Chinese, a Shanghainese dialect and one of the Cantonese dialect. Their father is a rickshaw business man and their mother was a bound-feet wife before bound-feet was made illegal.
However one day, the father lost his business and family wealth due to gambling and in order to free the family off the debts, he had arranged marriage for the two girls with two sons of a Chinese business man base in Los Angeles.
When China was under attack by Japan, bombs were raining from the sky in Shanghai, Pearl and May need to leave for the country. They had to went through villages, rocky rides on the sea, quarantine in Angel’s Island before starting their life anew in Los Angeles with their husbands and their family. It was during the journey, they went through so much sufferings and life experiences that they were no longer the ignorant and beautiful girls in Shanghai. They were force to brutal of truth of life and it is their sisterhood join them by blood and ties which held them together.
Although they lived in America, everything is pretty much in the old Chinese traditional ways. Pearl was married to a paper-son of the Chinese family so technically they were illegal immigrants of those times where May married the younger son who is born in American citizen making her a rightful citizen of America. Living in the same household, sharing their lives just like how they did in Shanghai, their life revolves around Chinatown. Pearl became a mother and did all she could to bring up Joy in a Chinese traditional manner like how her parents taught her while living as a American.
Lisa See transported me back to history. Although I had never lived the WWII and Communist era, I could sense the vibrants of Shanghai before WWII and the hardships and perhaps it was the Chinese roots in me which could understand how traditional Chinese family are and how a woman has no place more important than a man in a family and understood all sorts of bickering between the sisters. I caught myself crying a few times because of the death of people in the story. There is a sequel to this book, Dreams of Joy which I have yet to read.
I certainly recommend this read to anyone. It is a great book not to be missed.
Have you read Shanghai Girls? What do you think of it?
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