Shanghai Girls

Shanghai Girls

by Lisa See
4.0 949


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Shanghai Girls 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 949 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Once again Lisa See puts us a land we are unfamiliar with and introduces us to wonderful characters who are experiencing life in an unfamiliar land as well. Our schools don't teach much of Chinese history and Lisa's book educates us in the Chinese experience during the 20th century in Shanghai and also Los Angeles. My mother grew up in LA and I remember her stories of the LA she remembered and Lisa captures the multi-national flavor of the era very well. Her story is a compelling tale following two sisters and their love and friendship that only sisters can have. In Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Lisa explores the relationships of the "sworn sisters". In Shanghai Girls, the sisters are modern and breaking away from the customs of old China, experiencing the bonds and rivalries of sisters, and coming to live and learn a new country and it's ideas. Sadly the story ends all too soon and we are left wanting more. I had the opportunity to ask Lisa about that and she also would like to see the story continue. We are reading Shanghai Girls for our June book club and I am sure that everyone will love this book as much as we have Lisa See's other books. (Her first three mysteries are wonderful, too. Modern day China and it's changes and challenges are the themes.)
1Katherine1 More than 1 year ago
Shanghai Girls is a very good read. Sisters Pearl and May are modern and somewhat spoiled girls living in Shanghai in 1937. Working as "beautiful girls", they are hired by artists who paint their pictures for calendars and other advertisements. Although their parents don't approve of this work, Pearl and May are modern young women who enjoy the status and relative wealth these modeling jobs provide. All this changes when the girls discover that their father has not only gambled away the family home and fortune, but their earned money as well. To get himself out of debt, their father has sold the girls as brides for two unknown men in America. In the background of all this, Japan has invaded China and is advancing on the city of Shanghai. What results is a fascinating story of families torn apart, not just by circumstances but by lies as well. I thought Lisa See did a very good job making the past come to life with this book, just as she did in Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (I haven't read Peony in Love...yet). The conflict between the three generations is something everyone can relate too, as is the ignorance of youth. The culture shock the Chinese immigrants experienced in the novel really makes it clear how difficult it is to fit into a new (and sometimes hostile) society. The one and only complaint I have about the book is that the story seems to go off the rails a bit at the very end. I almost felt like Ms.See wanted to end the book as abruptly and easily as possible, so she threw that in there. Fortunately, I found the rest of the book so charming and wonderful that the ending did not take away from my enjoyment of the book.
BookaholicTracy More than 1 year ago
This is my second book I read by Lisa See and like the first it was hard to put down. i would recommend it to everyone.
Kiki_Prince More than 1 year ago
This is my first discovery of Lisa See and I'm eager to read more by this author. Shanghai Girls had all the wonderful elements of fiction - conflict, plot, secrets, dynamic characters - and her readers immediately connect with the two sisters. This piece of wonderfully written historical fiction gives an insightful look into China and Anti-Chinese politics in the United States. I thoroughly enjoyed it and from page one, I could not put down the novel until the very end.
Annibebe More than 1 year ago
Initially, I wasn't sure that I liked this book because I found the main characters, 2 sisters from Shanghai, unsympathetic. They were spoiled and ungrateful. However, Lisa See, redeemed herself by painting a picture of the Japanese invasion of China and the ensuing tragedies sparked by the sisters flight from their home. The author does a good job illustrating their new lives in the United States and ultimately the epiphanies that result from truth! I recommend this book.
SheGeek More than 1 year ago
This book is an excellent study of the emotional bonds that tie sisters together. While the two main characters love each other deeply the reader will gain insight into what types of wedges can also be present in such a relationship. And along the way the reader will learn some things about Chinese culture. You cannot help but be intrigued by all these two women go through. I will admit that the ending of this book felt a bit abrupt. But after reading this book I was inspired to read another of Lisa See's works.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lisa See writes in a way that I can picture what and where the story is. I thoroughly enjoy her style and the historical significance.
lola007 More than 1 year ago
Lisa See is a good writer who always provides rich descriptions that take readers right to the moment she's describing. Overall, the book is pretty depressing, but demonstrates personal triumph over adversity. The ending is VERY DISAPPOINTING. The book should have been Shanghai Girls: Part One. I couldn't believe it when I clicked to the last page; I thought perhaps the entire book hadn't downloaded. A sequel is a must because the story is incomplete. Note to author: Please don't do this to us again.
Kager More than 1 year ago
This book was really good. A little hard to get into at first, but after the first couple chapters, I was hooked. The characters were very well portrayed and the story line was excellent and full of surprises. We need a sequel. Pearl needs to find Joy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love reading her books, it takes me back in time and puts you right in the book with the other characters. I visited China a couple of years ago. The country and language fascinate me and reading these books gives me a little piece of China every time I read them.
sophieAK More than 1 year ago
This is a great book. Yet, I have to give it only 4 stars. I was captivated by the beginning especially the 1930s Chinese culture (all descriptions create quite vivid images). Unfortunately, once the story moved to the United States the plot seemed rushed. The ending caught me by surprise as well - I felt the book needed a couple more chapters to finish its tale. Regardless, this is truly a great book. I would recommended it to anyone who has interest in Chinese culture or just would like to explore relationships/social interactions between people from the middle of the twentieth century.
AweSam More than 1 year ago
Shanghai Girls tells the story of two sisters, Pearl and May, who lived the exquisite life in Shanghai, China. The year is 1937 and things are going well in China in this period.  Pearl is considered the smart sister, she's the one who's responsible for her sister.  She's fluent in four languages, including the secret language she and her parents use, the Sze Yup dialect.  Her Chinese zodiac sign is the Dragon, which is known to be the most powerful of signs.  May is known as the beautiful one and she loves to live the carefree life.  She's the girl who likes to have fun here and there.  May's Chinese Zodiac sign is the Sheep, according to their mother, the Sheep thinks only of itself and its own comforts.  May can get pretty much what she wants by persuading her father in a way her sister can't.  The main conflict is how the two sisters try to fit in America.  They go through many hardships and face bad times through the years of World War II and the Communist War.  One specific plot event is how Pearl has to be the mother of May's child.  Back then, it would've been considered very bad if a girl was to known to be with child with another man.  Even if she was married and the child was not the husband's.  This important key event implies how Pearl has to be the mother and daughter-in-law while May gets to go out.  This act lasts for many years to come.  Although, Pearl has mixed feelings of this act, May wishes she could be Pearl.  Their relationship as sisters is complicated but one can understand about these two.  Another plot event is that they learn to keep quiet about who their family really is.  If the secret were to get out, the family could get deported back to China.  Anything could happen to these two sisters, at any time that is.  They don't want to be sent back to China, times are changing over there.  China even has a major impact on America's thinking of them over the years.  The thought of China is affected by discrimination and the family is aware of this situation. What I liked about the book was of Pearl's character throughout her stay in America.  She's been very obedient to her in-laws and she's also been observant of her surroundings.  Pearl describes the events that are happening with such detail and displays imagery.   Her character might be more likable to readers as she has these heartfelt and sad moments.  People might be able to relate to her role as a daughter, sister, wife, mother, or a daughter-in-law.  She is a very strong character and has went through so much she didn't deserve to go through.  Pearl loves her sister more than anything and would strive for anything.  Even though she's jealous of her sister, May, they will always remain best friends even if their hair turns white.  An important aspect of her is how she was in love with an artist, Z.G.  He was more sought after her sister and she didn't realize this until later.  The main thing I disliked about this book was of what happened to Pearl and her mother in the shack.  That night changed Pearl's life psychologically, emotionally and physically.  Pearl still thinks of what happened to her but there is something revealing about her.  She went to go check in on her mother and suffered the same.  It was a sign of respect as said by her, the supreme act of filial piety.  If there was a way to reverse time, Pearl definitely would. This life-changing event stays on her mind and comes up during certain times in the book.  I would most definitely recommend this book to anyone who's ready to read a book filled with hope, despair, grieve, love, and happiness.  There are some moments where you could relate to or understand about.  So much is revealed of each character in the story.  Some graphic content is included , anything unexpected or disturbing could happen.  A person who is matured enough can read this book, as stated above, because there are some adult content as well.  Even if is 300 or so pages, you feel as if you embarked on this journey with two sisters.  You have went through what they went through and learned so much about them.  Pearl and May are both strong, they faced aplenty. Twenty-one years is a large expansion of time of their lives.  It is but one long journey, that the two inseparable sisters had traveled.  They would always remember a time when things were much simpler.  However, their stay in America has shaped and molded them into something stronger.  Even though the two sisters are from Shanghai, they have learned to become Americans in the long run.
belazy3 More than 1 year ago
Timberlake More than 1 year ago
This was a beautifully portrayed story of sisters--very different from one another in so many ways. Through their good and bad days in China and America, they held onto each other and made sacrifices only sisters can understand. Lisa See most assuredly did her job researching the history of both China and Los Angeles during the time period she created. You could feel the sadness, anxiety, and fear as she spun this tale. The bright spots and loyalty were poignantly woven as well. I can't help wondering if there will be (or is--and I shall look) a continuation of this story in another book as Pearl searches for her daughter, Joy. Bravo! I learned quite a bit of history in this emotional story.
nuee More than 1 year ago
To follow Pearl and May from Shanghai to Los Angeles in 1937 is to track the millions of female victims of wars. As if terror, hunger and danger aren't enough, the women suffer rape and humiliation. They run from Chinese gangs only to encounter the warring Japanese. Landing in the U.S. offers a new set of challenges: strange food, incarceration, discrimination and the daily frustration of analyzing the political and social winds in a country sure to go to war. Pearl and May, each in their own way, succeed; they love and laugh and get a stake in their new country.
KashaMc More than 1 year ago
This was another absolutely beautifully written work by Lisa See. I was captured by the 1st page & had a very hard time putting the book down. It is a glimpse into Chinese & American History during the 1930's & 1940's: pre & during WWII. The Shanghai sisters escape from Shanghai, the city they loved & the journey through all the hardships they lived through to grasp part of the "American Dream" is a poignant story of the strength of women & the ties that bind sisters!
Shellyjj More than 1 year ago
I've never read one of Ms. See's books before, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I was floored by her amazing research and ability to depict historical places and events. That said, though, there was was just so much more I wanted from this book. I felt that way too many events and major plot lines were just skimmed over. With as much time as the book covers, I guess this can't be helped, but it was jarring nonetheless. I also never really got Pearl - as a first-person narrator, I feel that I should trust her, comprehend her actions, and perhaps even like her somewhat. She never grew on me, though, and was a fairly hard-to-reach character. My main problem, however, was that the theme of the story centers on two sisters and their love for each other, through all circumstances. I know blood is thicker than water, and I've seen some examples in real life, but I don't have a sister and I could not relate at all. This is obviously not the author's fault, but it made the book less enjoyable for me. When someone deliberately hurts you, mocks you and refuses their duties at your expense, I'm not sure why you would ignore all this. Thus my lack of siblings and of "getting" Pearl came together to really decrease my experience with the book. Also, after finishing it, I'm not sure what See's overall aim of the book was, and that's not a good way to be left hanging.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Don't you hate it when you're into a book, but it gets to the end and you're like "That's It!!!". That's what happened to me with this book. Still, it's very well written and the character development is great. It's still worth the read.
sara_p More than 1 year ago
Lisa See is obviously very well educated on life not only in Shanghai, but in the beginnings of Chinese-America in LA. Reading this book was an experience to dive into a culture I've never explored, and it made me feel for what the Chinese-American people went through not only in their home country, but once they came to America. The book was written very well, the plot was interesting and carried me from front to back - the only thing I was slightly disappointed with was the slight abruptness of the ending, but I guess the novel did have to end somewhere (she easily could have kept going for another 200 pages!). Overall, an excellent read - can't wait to read her others.
BookLoverNV More than 1 year ago
I can't believe some of the negative reviews of this book. I really liked this book. It was a good story - interesting and at times tragic. But I learned of a time period I am very unfamiliar with. I can not believe how our government treated Asian immigrants and citizens during the wars. I actually thought maybe the author exaggerated her claims until I read up on it. I like the sisters, their personalities - their differences. They seem like a real family who went through a lot of difficult problems. My only complaint is that the story seemed to end a little abruptly. I want to know happened next! This is the first book I have read from this author and I look forward to reading more from her. I definately recommend for anyone who likes historical fiction.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really People? I can't even begin to believe the ratings this book received. Is anyone here actually familiar with good literature? This book wasn't even close to being remarkable in any way, shape, or form. Talk about your depressing reads with no light at the end of the tunnel. Is that beautiful reading to most? Unresolved disputes? Unimaginative chaos? Mother/daughter rape scenes? Guilt, upon guilt, upon never ending "shoot me in the head" guilt. Predictable story lines...death, death, and yet even more death...disappointment after disappointment. Nothing and I mean NOTHING about this novel makes me want to discuss it with friends or recommend it to anyone. Let me make this perfectly clear, not all stories have a happy ending, but some where along the pages there is happiness that makes the ending bitter sweet. Having read Snow Flower and Peony, two novels that left me breathless for days after reading them, this book was a gross pandemic of misery. If you like that sort of thing, great! But for those of you who prefer a more enriching read with twists and turns and an actual story line...skip it. You won't be missing anything.
ReadSandiRead More than 1 year ago
Sweeping panoramas, descriptive naarative, and compelling story all lead to a breathtaking experience. This is my first Lisa See book and I will be purchasing more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book it brought tears to my eyes and feeled my heart with love. It was very daring, and exciting. Right when you think you know what's about to happen next you get another suprise! It was great.
Coconut_Library More than 1 year ago
Shanghai Girls was my September Book Club pick and it did not disappoint. The book is set in fairly modern times compared to Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Peony in Love, and is about two sisters, Pearl and May, who leave Shanghai, China for California at the brink of World War II. To experience the start of the war through their eyes, living in Shanghai, was a perspective that I have never been privy to before. The horrors that they face before they are able to leave China are extreme, and there is one particular scene that is very difficult to read. Once the girls get to America, life is safer but not necessarily happier. Much of the novel builds the characters and their relationships with each other. It also teaches us about the setting in which the story is taking place; Chinatown in Los Angeles, California. Gaining understanding about this neighborhood (and other cultural neighborhoods like it), and why they exist in the first place, was eye opening and humbling. See throws her readers a curve ball, towards the end, that caused me to choke up, and she leaves us with a cliffhanger. We do not find out exactly what happens to the characters, but we understand where they are headed. Pick up a copy and see for yourself and be thankful we live in the time period we do, with the freedom we have. (originally posted on
Camsgrand2001 More than 1 year ago
I loved the book. I would love to have known these sisters. I read it in two days (would have been sooner if I didn't have to sleep). I am really looking forward to the follow-up (please let there be one. It would be unfair if there wasn't). It gives so much insight to the way it was. Most US citizens are unaware of what went on "back then." I give much insight to why citzens of other countries want to be here. If everyone was like they are portrayed in the book, Welcome to America.