Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

Wow, it sure has been a while since I posted anything here. Pretty sad, I think. I have been reading, but mostly reading a lot at the same time and not really finishing any of them, except for this one.
To get to the story; I really liked it. This was a story about two Beautiful Girls living in Shanghai in the early 1930s, and what their lives are like after their father loses all of his money and their money by gambling it all away.
These are two very sophisticated sisters, May and Pearl, who run around the city like they own it, often defying their father in a very unChinese-like manner, posing for calendars that advertise everything from diapers to makeup and motor oil. They play with the international crowd who had their very own section of the city closed off from the rest of the Chinese population of beggars, farmers, rickshaw pullers, and poor. May is considered the really beautiful one, while Pearl is just the taller, thinner, less attractive older sister.
One of the great things about the novel is that See focuses a lot on the superstitions of traditional Chinese; we find out that people really did think that when you were born determined what your character would be like. Pearl is a Dragon, so she is stubborn, and she protects what she loves; May is a Sheep, so she is complacent, follows along, but is also stubborn. The sisters' relationship is complicated, just like any other two sisters. They love each other, they get jealous of one another, they fight, they make up, and they protect each other to a fault.
The one thing I didn't like was See's writing style. She unfolds everything for you, reveals all the little motivations for the reader like we can't do it on our own. Please, just let me use my brain for a little bit, and let me fill in just few of the gaps; I don't want any author to do that for me. I was expecting more from See considering the reviews I heard, but I have to admit I was just a little disappointed, but only in her, not in her story.


  1. I have only read one of See's books, The Snow flower and the Secret Fan and wasn't very thrilled about it. But I also own this one so I'll have to check it out too.

  2. I honestly don't think I'll be reading anything else by this author, Lilly. Who knows, I might change my mind later if something she writes sounds really, really good.