Author: Lisa See
Publisher: Random House Trade Paperback edition 2012
Genre: Fiction, China, Communism, Red China, Emigration, Family Saga,
Rating: 4 Stars
Shanghai Girls, is book one in the story of Pearl and May Chin. They are two sisters who grew up in Shanghai, China. The sisters are of polar personalities, but both fell in love with the same man. Their father arranged marriages for them and they emigrate to America. They left China before it became communist. Pearl marries a man named Sam. She raises May's baby as her own. The baby is named Joy. Joy is a head-strong, defiant, independent, selfish person.
Dreams of Joy, alternates between Joy and Pearl's voice. In the late 1950s Joy moves to China. She has naive ideologies about communism. Joy is also angry with her mother and aunt.
Pearl follows after Joy. The two women tug and pull with each other in regards to their relationship, their unreconciled past, and how to survive under China's communism.
In Chinese culture, the zodiac birth year is important in regards to personality and temperament.
Pearl is a Dragon.
May is a Sheep.
Joy is a Tiger.
Reference to zodiac personalities is often talked about in the story. All the characters will be defined by the zodiac.
This book has been in my TBR pile. I had read Shanghai Girls a few years ago and loved it.
In this review I'll answer two questions:
What drew me to the story and kept me reading?
I was drawn to Dreams of Joy, because I loved Shanghai Girls. Pearl and May's polar personalities cause clashes which lead to: struggles, speculations, silent brooding, arguments, and revenge. Their love and loyalty to each other is the glue. Dreams of Joy, follow them to the mid-life years. Unresolved anger and blame haunt them. I was anxious to read a completion to their tumultuous life.
2. Chinese culture is an interest to me. I've read few books which tell a story of communist China, nor people who live in its grip.
3. Joy is a pain. She is a character who does not listen, and can learn ONLY through hardship and suffering. Often, I was aghast at her: cruelty, selfishness, disrespect, and pasted starch facial expressions.
4. Pearl is a dragon (so am I). She is a mother of strength, which will match up-against her Tiger daughter.
Why did I give Dreams of Joy 4 stars?
1. I felt the ending was too tidy, few crumbs were left.
2. A character from book one, was brought back in at the tail-end of book two. Maybe this gave Pearl closure, but I did not care for it.
3. The man whom Pearl and May love is not a likable character. It is true he grew on me, but he is still a milk-sop. But, maybe the strong personalities of Pearl and May had no room for an equally strong love interest.