Book 1: Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
Clues to describe this book: Sisterhood, Paris of Asia, Secrets, American Dream / Nightmare
Book 2: Dreams of Joy by Lisa See
Clues to describe this book: Mother / Daughter Relationships, Patriotism, Strength, Forgiveness
Review: Shanghai Girls Series by Lisa See composes of two books: Shanghai Girls and Dreams of Joy. Both books focus on Chinese historical fiction. The historical detail in both books are very realistic and grim.
Shanghai Girls sets place in 1930s in China. Two sisters, Pearl and May, live a carefree glamorous lifestyle as “beautiful girls” in Shanghai, aka the Paris of Asia, until Japan bombs China. Pearl and May are forced to leave their family and set their journey to the United States. Lisa is successfully able to capture the struggles of Chinese immigration in the United States during those times. As the story progresses, we see the successes and hardships that Pearl and May endure as they make their journey to the United States. The narrator in this book is Pearl (the older sister) who has a calm and level-headed tone throughout the story. The end of the book may seem a bit abrupt, but this makes up for it in the sequel, Dreams of Joy.
In Dreams of Joy, the author returns to the story of Pearl and May from Shanghai and Pearl’s stubborn daughter, Joy. Joy runs away to communist China in late 1950s and Pearl runs after her to return them back safely to America. The story is compelling and definitely has unexpected plot twists. This book is definitely heartwrenching so be prepared to pull out a box of Kleenex while you read. The author’s research during this time period is phenomenal. Also the narrative alternating from Joy and Pearl is quite refreshing from her previous book and makes the book wholesome seeing the complicated mother daughter dynamic. I feel that Dreams of Joy successfully concludes Shanghai Girls.
Overall, I would strongly recommend reading this series if you are interested in novels with strong female characters and/or interested in Chinese historical fiction.