A friend thought she was reading Shanghai Diary when she happened on to this book and recommended it. Because I enjoyed Shanghai Diary I decided to read this also. This is a historical novel which begins in 1937 at the height of Shanghai’s glamor days. The beautiful Chinese sisters May and Pearl Chin are enjoying a carefree life of fun and fashion. It all begins to change when their father gambles away the family’s comfortable existence and arranges to have his daughters married off to two American Chinese boys. The girls see no escape so they go through with the wedding, knowing that the boys will leave and they say they will follow later, never really planning to do so.
When the Japanese invade Shanghai the girls and their mother try to escape to Hong Kong. This is a very harrowing experience. The girls begin to realize they have no choice but to try to get to America to the husbands they never planned to live with.
The historical events are interesting, the Chinese culture, the political events in China, the problems of immigrants when they arrive in America and living as an immigrant in the heart of China Town in Los Angeles. The sisters are very different but powerfully dedicated to each other, even though they have jealousies and rivalries.
I had a lot of respect for the way the girls accepted their lot and made the best of it. Of course it is just a novel, but I felt that we all have a choice when life sends us in a discouraging direction. We can become bitter and angry or go forward with hope and hard work as they did. I enjoyed the glimpse into the workings of the Chinese family as they strive to assimilate into American life. The book ends very abruptly with one of the characters heading back to China. I suspect there will be a sequel here. (I noticed in the Costco magazine today that indeed there is a book where this one leaves off.) This book is available on fetchbook for under a dollar.
I liked the book, probably 3 ½ stars. I would read it again. Another novel by Lisa See, “Snow Flower,” was made into a movie recently, a different look at Chinese Americans. I watched it via Red Box. It was enjoyable, if you can handle lots of subtitles.