Friday, April 2, 2010

Book Review: Shanghai Girls

I have read and loved Lisa See's novels Snowflower and the Secret Fan (my review) and Peony in Love (my review), so I was really looking forward to Shanghai Girls. This is the story begins in the 1930s with two sisters, Pearl and May, whose perfect life in Shanghai takes and abrupt turn when their father announces that he's gambled away all their money. He has arranged marriages for them with Chinese-American brothers; and although initially they refuse to go to America with their husbands, they eventually must escape when the Japanese attack.

The first one-half to three-fourths of the book was fantastic. I was totally wrapped up in the story and the characters. It was the kind of book that I couldn't wait to pick up and read in the evening. But the last quarter completely lost me. This was a rather odd experience for me. I started out absolutely loving the book and ended up feeling a little empty and annoyed. It was all so rushed at the end, and yet it dragged on and on. I felt myself saying, "Oh, come ON!" in my head a lot.

There was a climatic scene between the sisters nearly at the end that was completely forced and unbelievable. There was no closure. I could think of a dozen places where the book could have ended acceptably, but this ending was the worst possible. The reader is left dangling, feeling certain that there must be a sequel coming up. But honestly, I'm not sure I would read the sequel. By the end of the book, I didn't care about any of the characters anymore.

12 comments:

WonderBunny said...

Hmm...have you read Peony in Love? I felt the same way about the later half of the book. I just wanted it to move and it seemed to flounder. I did enjoy Snow Flower and the Secret Fan though.

Jennifer @ Mrs. Q: Book Addict said...

i enjoyed Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Shanghai Girl. However, I never finished Peony in Love. I'll have to try it again another time.

christa @ mental foodie said...

This is on my TBR - interesting, as it seems like all reviews I'd read were very positive! Argh, I hate books with bad endings!!

Page Turner said...

This was definitely my least favorite of the books I've read by Lisa See. Someone did tell me that a sequel was planned. I might have been more likely to read it immediately following Shanghai Girls in hopes of finding a satisfying ending, but like you, I'm not sure I would be interested enough in the characters to pick up the story again after a year or more. You can read my review here.

Staci said...

I'm so sorry that the ending left you feeling like that!! I loved this one and all her others.

mel u said...

I also disliked the ending-I like the book a lot overall as I did her other two historical novels-great post

Janna said...

Oh for a cup of coffee and a quiet corner to read you blog and a few good books!

Literary Feline said...

That really is too bad. :-( I haven't yet read this one, but I do plan to. I've noticed that quite a few readers weren't too thrilled with the ending. At least I have the first part to look forward to!

Book Dilettante said...

I feel I must now read all her books to see which ones I finish! Good review!

Judylynn said...

Thanks for the review, Sarah! I was planning on reading this one because I had read Snowflower and the Secret Fan and enjoyed it, but now I probably won't bother.

Giddy said...

I agreed--Shanghai Girls left me cold compared to the earlier 2. I thought it was because it was set in America and just felt like another Amy Tan novel, only in LA instead of SF, whereas the other 2 were showing me things I hadn't read much about before, but maybe there is something to the sequel theory!!

BBat50 said...

I feel like every year or so, for the last 40 years, I've read another interesting and at least partially horrific story about the last hundred years of China. Starting with the Good Earth and including all sorts of writers, notably Amy Tan, and now Shanghai Girls.

I learned a lot about immigration from China into the US from the book and about how the McCarthy Era hit the Chinese-Americans.

I agree the ending only served to set up a sequel but was a disappointment.