Friday, May 14, 2010

Shangai Girls by Lisa See
I was interested to read the article “Shanghai Is Ready for Its Close-Up” (Austin Ramzy) in the May 17, 2010 Time Magazine the same week that I am listening to the audio of Lisa See’s Shanghai Girls. Both the article and the book speak of Shanghai’s glory days of the 30’s and early 40’s. I am still largely ignorant of Chinese history and culture as are most Americans, I fear. Reading Lisa See’s stories brings some of that history to life for us. (Snowflower and the Secret Fan was on our group list in 2008.) Women’s lives have been so very difficult until very recently! I feel so fortunate to have been born in the second half of the 20th century in the U.S.A.
Pearl and May are sisters who are called ‘beautiful girls’ in Shanghai of the 1930’s. But when their father reveals that his gambling has cost the family everything, the girls are bartered to husbands in arranged marriages. The girls refuse to go to America or acknowledge their marriages until war and death and loss of everything force them to flee.
The family intrigue is woven through with lies and secrets that lead to fear and inevitable tragedy. Although See ends the tale with the protagonist’s hope-filled vows, everything that had preceded that vow left me, as the reader, doubting that there could ever be a happy ending for Pearl and May.

Back to the Time article about the World’s Fair in Shanghai this summer… sounds like Shanghai is a swinging city again! I want to read more to learn more about it.

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