“Most families eat at a round dining table, so they will always be whole and connected, with no sharp edges. We have a square teakwood table, and we always sit in the exact same places: my father next to May on one side of the table, with my mother directly across from her so that my parents can share my sister equally. Every meal – day after day, year after year – is a reminder that I’m not the favorite and never will be.”
Shanghai Girls is the story of two sisters – Pearl and May – who come of age in Shanghai in late 1930’s. They are adventurous and determined to break away from the old Chinese traditions to become modern women. Then, two things happen: their father announces that he has arranged marriages for them and the Japanese attack their city.
Lisa See is well known for her exciting and heart-wrenching tales of Chinese women. Shanghai Girls is every bit as wonderful as her other books. I especially enjoyed learning more about the plight of Chinese immigrants to the United States before and after World War II. As much as I love Lisa See, I even surprised myself that I took so long to read this book. I’m glad I waited, however. The end has a cliffhanger that obviously carries forth into See’s latest novel Dreams of Joy. I have it in hand and anxiously look forward to delving into the world of Pearl and May once again!
4 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2009