July 20, 2018 by TinyNavajo
Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ◊
I’ve started reading more contemporary/real life inspired books and this has been one of my favorite ones to read this year and in a long time.
Shanghai Girls, as you can probably tell, takes place in Shanghai China during the mid-1930’s. It tells the story of two sisters, May and Pearl are thrown out of their life of sophistication, beauty, and the ability to do as they wish and into turmoil as their father has not only lost all of their money, but they are sold in marriage to California Gold Men, Chinese men who have come back to China to secure “appropriate” brides to take back to Los Angeles, to pay off his debt. War breaks out and they miss the initial boat to Los Angles.
Eventually, May and Pearl are able to leave China and make their way to Angel Island where they are detained until their story makes sense and they are allowed to meet their husbands and their new family. Once settled in Los Angeles, the two sisters learn that what they knew how to do to secure work and the life they knew in Shanghai will not help them here. Here, in this new world where there is very little that is familiar, they really have only themselves to lean on and support each other.
But as they settle into their new lives, May and Pearl start to drift apart, moving towards what they both really want and really need in this life. Pearl seeks to create a new life for herself, a life where she doesn’t have to depend on anyone else but herself and her husband, someone she comes to love despite their beginning. May is drawn to the life and glamour of Hollywood and the possibility of being a model/actress/anyone again.
It was interesting to see the difference between these two sisters, especially as the story is only told from the older sister’s perspective. As with all things and perspective, it is skewed but it shows us the life these two sisters make for themselves in Los Angeles during the next 30 years, not only staying together because of blood relations, but because they are sisters. You may hate your siblings at times, but at the same time they grew up with you and you wouldn’t want anyone else with you at times. It was interesting to see the dynamic from the older sister’s point of view though. A lot of times, books show you the point of view from the younger sibling, rather than the older.
I just need to read the second book now, which focuses on Joy, their daughter as she makes her way back to China. What book siblings have you enjoyed learning about? Comment below and let me know!