Shanghai Girls, Lisa See

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? I actually chose this book because I didn’t know much about China and the past of this out of the way country. Shanghai Girls is a 2009 novel written by an American novelist, Lisa See, who also has Chinese origins. She is interested in Chinese history, since her ancestors came from this faraway country. The story takes place in Shanghai, in 1937. Pearl and May Chin are two modern young women who are working as models, especially for calendars, to sell baby milk or cigarettes as well…
calendars

? Both of them have a life full of privilege, until their father looses the whole family’s wealth while gambling. To repay his debts, he decides to « sell » his daughters to two « GoldMountain » men, which means two Chinese Americans. As the city is invaded by Japanese soldiers, they have to travel across the country, avoiding the brutal soldiers. However, their mother will be raped and killed as they try to escape, Pearl will also be severly injured. The sisters finally succeed in taking a boat to America, but land in an immigration station called Angel Island. It was basically like another version of Ellis Island in New York, at the only difference that if the second one was kind of welcoming, the other one was  « designed to keep the Chinese out » as See said. The author also said that in this place, « immigrants had to answer between 200 and 1,000 standard questions »! It gives you an idea of the long amount of time they will spend in Angel Island, where Pearl will hear shocking news: May is pregnant, which is going to have unsuspected consequences in their lives…After many twists and turns, they will finally begin their new lives of married women in a foreign family, who is definitely not as rich in America as they were in China. Pearl and May have to adapt in an unknown country where racism is in every street’s corner, and where Asian people don’t mix up with native Americans. They have to work in Chinatown and the situation becomes even harder when the World War II begins. How could Americans make a difference between their Japanese enemies and the Chinese refugees? Secrets that they would hope buried forever threaten to come back, always bringing new problems… I really enjoyed reading this historical story about the lives of these two sisters who share a complex relationship.

? I only had one thought after closing this book: let’s read the sequel! Have you ever heard of it? Do you know a bit about China? Do you find this topic interesting?

Une réflexion au sujet de « Shanghai Girls, Lisa See »

  1. I don’t know this book, but it seems very attractive. I love China, so I think that it’s a really great novel for me !

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