Friday, June 26, 2009
Review: Shanghai Girls
This novel is a family saga, crossing two continents and nearly thirty years. Pearl Louie and her sister, Mae, were born and raised among the Shanghai elite, but with the arrival of Japanese invasion and the start of WWII, find themselves sold to Chinese-American husbands. They cross the Pacific to begin a new life with unknown relatives in Los Angeles. The novel covers Pearl and Mae's efforts to make new lives for themselves in Los Angeles, and to come to terms with their new family. Pearl discovers a world of contradictions in Los Angeles. She begins to develop an American identity, while living in a country prejudiced against her. Always critical of her mother's old-fashioned superstition, Pearl finds herself drawn to traditional ways as she faces the challenges of raising a family. While there are some triumphs for Pearl, Mae, and the rest of the Louie family, there are also many sorrows. See's ending for this saga shocked me- it was certainly not the ending I was anticipating. Overall, this novel offers a complex and engaging plot, and brought me into the world of Chinese Americans in the middle of the 20th century. Through See's work we go deep into the innermost recesses of the lives and thoughts of the Louie family. See has written a complicated epic- a story of much sorrow, but also of persistence.
Lisa See, Shanghai Girls, (Random House, 2009) ISBN: 1400067111