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Shanghai Girls by Lisa See


Trusting the good taste in books of one of my close friends, I downloaded the novel Shanghai Girls by Lisa See at her suggestion.  She was about halfway through and I was assured that like her, I probably wouldn’t be able to put the book down.  Needless to say, she was completely right.  I found myself completely engrossed in a world where I knew little about in a time period where I thought was better versed in its history.  I actually felt guilty for not knowing a lot of the history in this book. But isn’t that the great thing about reading though? There’s always something new to learn and as long as you keep reading, you’ll always be learning!

But anyway, before I go off on a tangent about the importance of reading (and I could really go on, I wrote a speech in the third grade titled “The Importance of Reading.” What a nerd, huh?), let’s get back to Shanghai Girls. Divided into three parts, this book tells the story of its main character, Pearl Chin and her sister May.  Having grown up in a wealthy family in Shanghai, Pearl and May are horrified to find out that her father has squandered away all the family money and in order to pay his debts, he has arranged marriages for his two daughters.  They are to join their new husbands in America soon after their weddings but before they are able to leave, Shanghai is attacked by neighboring Japan as part of a much larger and ongoing conflict between Japan and China. Eventually making it across the Pacific to California, Pearl and May are met with only more and more obstacles in their new lives.  And that’s where I’m cutting any and all plot description.  I actually debated giving you even that much, however, I assured myself that just by reading the back of the book, you wouldn’t take any of the above as spoilers.

Occasionally I have written about how it’s been difficult to select a book after reading one that I’ve loved so much. And then, at times, I’ve felt that I didn’t pick the right book because there was no real transition between the two. I didn’t think long and heard after And the Mountains Echoed because I downloaded this book on the suggestion of a friend however, somehow the transition worked seamlessly.  While focusing on a different part of the world, See’s themes of love and family hit a soft spot with me after Khaled Hosseini’s novel.  It also reminded me, like Hosseini’s novels, that I really have so much to learn about the world and all the different people living in it. Let me tell you, I knew so little of the history that took place in Shanghai Girls and a large portion of the novel takes place in the United States!  It’s quite interesting looking back at my grade school education and thinking how much might have been passed over in either our nations past, or in world history that didn’t have a direct effect on America.

Regardless of whether you’re an expert in every aspect of history that unfolds in Lisa See’s Shanghai Girls or you’re completely oblivious to any and all history, ever, I think you’ll be fascinated and entranced by this novel.

And as a bonus for myself, in looking up this novel to find a picture to use, I discovered that Shanghai Girls has a sequel! This serves as a lesson to me in that I should’ve blogged about this book a while ago. I could’ve started and finished the sequel by now. Rest assured, though, that it’s already in my book queue!

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