Pearl and May are two sisters living in Shanghai in the 1930’s. After their father loses his fortune, they are sold to a Chinese businessman living in Los Angeles as brides for two of his sons. Leaving Shanghai just ahead of the Japanese invasion, Shanghai Girls is the story of their survival during their journey to the US and redefining their lives as Chinese immigrants in the new world.
Frankly, I found this novel a bit meh. What kept me going were the historical details. I had no idea that Shanghai was a partitioned city pre WWII, with Chinese citizens being excluded from certain areas controlled by European interests. The extreme racism and mistreatment the Chinese immigrants faced in America was horrific, even after China became a wartime ally against the Japanese. And with the rise of Communism in China after the war, American Chinese were treated with more hostility and suspicion than ever.
I found the subject to be an interesting one, but would not recommend this novel. The “twists” were telegraphed from a mile off and the characters were simply not that engaging. I do have a personal preference for history to be consumed in conjunction with a fictionalized story, but I plan to search out the non-fiction version to satisfy my curiosity here.
Totally agree – I loved this auhtor’s novel Snow Flower and the Secret Fan but everything since has slowly declined in how enjoyment I get out of it. I still have the sequel to this because I guess I’m hoping she recaptures the magic eventually but I’m probably not going to seek anything else of hers out. I’d still recommend Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, though.