Lisa See’s ‘Shanghai Girls’ – A Novel of Exile (reposted from previous blog)

Hello My Lovely People!


In the week that has passed since my last post, I have managed to finish yet another book by Lisa See. I must say, I was very impressed with the last one I read. Poeny in Love was indeed a beautifully written book and I got my hands on yet another of Lisa See’s books as fast as I could. this time we are going talk about Lisa See’s Shanghai GirlsThis book was a little more difficult for me to procure. Poeny in Love was available at the Saeed Book Bank in Islamabad; however, Shanghai Girls was not. In the end a close friend found and sent the book to me. Thank you for the book Saadia! It was a wonderful read!

Shanghai Girls is a beautiful story on sisterhood and family set against the backdrop of Chinese immigration to America during and after the Japanese occupation of China. The story moves from Shanghai in the Sino-Japanese war to the United States where the protagonists May and Pearl find themselves living in China City in Los Angeles against the backdrop of the Second World War and the Cultural Revolution in China. 

The story describes both the plight of women during the Sino-Japanese war and the hardships faced by the immigrants in China as they attempt to assimilate within a society which sees them as fundamentally alien. As such, this novel is also a story of diaspora and identity revolving around three generations of a family of immigrants as they try to negotiate their identity between being American and being Chinese. 

The story is brutal at times; the descriptions of the Sino-Japanese war even more so. It describes, with vivid detail, the feelings of the Chinese protagonists as they come to grips with being exiled from their homeland and later persecuted in their adopted homeland as the effects of rising Communism in China reach across the Atlantic. Ms. See’s descriptions of propaganda and her insights into how a whole community may be demonized make for an interesting study of social dynamics surrounding a diasporic community.

Above all, Shanghai Girls is a story of sisterhood and family, as two sisters, tied together both by blood and by marriage define and redefine their relationship with one another through decades of struggle and learn (and perhaps unlearn and learn again) repeatedly what it means to be a family.

Shanghai Girls is an incredibly engaging book, from the the descriptions of culture in China City, to the hopes and dreams of the people living in its alleys hoping to one be known as American. This is indeed a book worth reading. It left quiet and impression and I am already itching to read the next of Lisa See’s books I can get my hands on. Ms. See has in fact written a sequel to this book titled Dreams of Joy. I hope to be reviewing that soon. 

Much Love!


No Comments

    Leave a Reply