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A little sad but really beautiful: Shanghai Girls

by Emma on August 12, 2011

in Books

This novel centers around two sisters and choronicles their lives from being ‘beautiful girls’ in Shanghai (they modeled for advertisements in the 30s and 40s) to their journey to being paper-wives in America.

I won’t lie, the sisters go through a lot of hard times and there are a number of tradgedies they are forced to weather together. The first half of the book feels like reading a series of sad events, they just don’t seem to have any luck! But watching them love and protect each other through it all makes it worth the read. Sister love really gets me all sentimental, I maybe cried a little during parts of this book.

This was the first book of Lisa See’s that I ever read, and I will definately be checking into her other novels, I think she does a wonderful job creating characters who you love despite their shortcomings and human flaws. Not to mention this novel leaves the reader at sort of cliff hanger (dang, I didn’t even know that when I started this book!) so now I have to go check out it’s follow up.

What have you been reading this month?

xo. Emma


C. August 12, 2011 at 5:31 pm

Hi, Emma!

I’ve been perusing your cool blog for a little while – love your style and recipes!

P.S. I’m currently reading “Age of Innocence” by Edith Wharton – good early 20th century American drama. ;)

Vics August 12, 2011 at 5:41 pm

I loved Snow Flower and the Secret Fan — I didn’t realise she’d written more books, next stop Amazon to order Shanghai Girls!
I’m reading Afterwards by Rosamund Lipton at the moment… enjoying it so far, it’s beautifully written and an unusual premise. You should check out her novel ‘Sister’ — it’s brilliant and has totally original and surprising ending. Definitely worth a read!

Tirzah August 12, 2011 at 5:49 pm

I’m reading Arundhati Roy’s “God of Small Things” right now. It’s been on my list for ages! This looks great, I might add it to my book list… I love your blog: tasty treats, books, and cute CUTE vintage outfits. :)

Rae Veda August 12, 2011 at 5:54 pm

Such a great book! Lately I’ve been reading a book called Handmade Marketplace. I’m going to review it on my blog in a few days. So keep your eye out if you’re interested.

xo, rv

Ester August 12, 2011 at 6:24 pm

I never heard of this writer but I shall definitely see if I can find any of her books translated in a book shop here :)
I recently finished reading a book from a portuguese writer about Queen Philippa of Lancaster. I love books on History, I just fell in love with this one!

Jemma August 12, 2011 at 6:25 pm

I loved that book and I just finished the follow up, Dreams of Joy, last night! It was so sad but sooo good!! You should also check out Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.

wanderingairstream August 12, 2011 at 6:48 pm

I just read The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball, a heartfelt true story of a NYC girl transitioning to full fledged farmer… you might enjoy Girl in Translation, it is a fascinating novel (but loosely based on the authors real life) of coming to the U.S. as a child and not speaking the language, etc.. and follows her from childhood to college… I thought it was excellent!!

Cyntia August 12, 2011 at 6:55 pm

I am also reading the Dirty LIfe by Kristin Kimball. The situations/withdrawals she encounters from leaving the city are interesting and something I feel I would encounter on my own if in that situation. I envy her bravery and all of the things she learns as farmer!

wanderingairstream August 15, 2011 at 2:36 pm

Cyntia… it is SO good isn’t it?! i think it would be an amazing experience even if it’s only for one growing season…

Kristi August 12, 2011 at 7:18 pm

I’ve been reading Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins. It was the book club selection this month. It’s definitely interesting…kind of hard reading… but I think it’s going to turn out to have a good ending, things are finally tying together..not something I would normally choose to read. Which is why I love book club!

Island Girl August 12, 2011 at 7:35 pm

I’m going to add this book to my list it sounds good. I listen to novels on audible, and this one sounds like it’s gonna make me cry!

marla August 12, 2011 at 8:01 pm

i just finished reading the help! it’s so good! i giggled out loud a lot. and got teary in a few places.
i can’t wait to see the movie.

i wrote a tiny review about the book today:

marla August 12, 2011 at 8:04 pm

and i’ve been meaning to ask if you’ve read my life in france by julia child. i read it after seeing julie & julia, and the book stole my heart.

Giulia August 12, 2011 at 8:05 pm

I read this book last year, I agree with you: it’s really sad but wonderful…I love it, it’s so well written, it’s so real that it makes you cry… amazing book!

erin August 12, 2011 at 8:37 pm

i am actually in the middle of reading “snowflower & the secret fan”. it’s a good read, but also heartbreaking. i’m lucky i have a mother-in-law in the “book business” so she sends all her good reads my way. :)


Sarah August 13, 2011 at 2:10 am

I *loved* this book! LOVED. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is better, but this book is great!

I’m reading The Tea Rose right now. :D You shoul dread it!

grace August 13, 2011 at 2:24 am

hi this is such a coincidence, i just finished ‘Shanghai Girls’ too! it was really well written, i couldnt put it down once i started! the thing that surprised me was how modern shanghai already was during the early 1900s

Jaclyn T August 13, 2011 at 2:55 am

I have been reading:

Tiffany Baker’s The Little Giant of Aberdeen County (awesome) and Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s My Stroke of Insight (also awesome).

This one looks good…

Leah August 13, 2011 at 5:42 am

I love the posts about books- I am a huge book fanatic and I am always looking for a good read, I will definitely have to check out that book. I was on vacation in Florida this past week and blew through the trilogy: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins- a must read!

Claudia August 13, 2011 at 6:59 am

Hey Emma. This book sounds very interesting and worth reading. I have two Shanghai adverts from the 30s and 40s in my living room that look very similar to that book cover.

Jessica Ann August 13, 2011 at 6:59 pm

I am the oldest of three girls, and am a total sucker for anything about sisters. Sisters are special!

terry August 13, 2011 at 10:02 pm

Hey Emma! Great blog! I have just read Otherwise Engaged, a story about a woman in her 30s getting married and all her angst about getting married – a very cute read, but it is an older book. I thank you so much for putting this up – I will have to check it out! Amy Tan also writes a lot of books about young Chinese women who come to America – all I have read are great! Have a great weekend, love your recipes!

monet August 15, 2011 at 6:11 am

lisa see is an AMAZING writer, comparable to amy tan in her own way. i just got done reading her “On Gold Mountain.” its a fascinating read!

Heather August 15, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is amazing! You should give it a try. I bought Shanghi Girls after I read it. I’ll have to read Shanghi Girls soon. :)

Franjessica August 15, 2011 at 5:09 pm

I read this book a few months ago. And I read Snowflower & the Secret Fan last year. They were both really awesome. I didn’t know that Shanghai Girls had a follow up. I guess that’s something new to add to my booklist.

Koral August 15, 2011 at 8:03 pm

I just finished reading this too actually!!! LOVED IT!!! and since I am also a nerdy foodie I read chapters while mowing down on homemade wontons and dim sum and noodles…. can’t help that i must eat what i read!

Gaby August 15, 2011 at 11:37 pm

Snowflower and the Secret Fan was amazing. Right now I am back into the classics with the Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison.

Jenna August 15, 2011 at 11:56 pm

I want to read this now.. add to my to do list. love reading.. thanks for sharing.. love your blog

Chelle August 17, 2011 at 6:11 am

I’m reading Drown, a short story collection by Junot Diaz. I fell in love with his novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, a few years ago, and am loving his short stories just as much!

Rachel August 17, 2011 at 8:39 pm

This book cover catches my eye every time I’m in the book store and I have been curious about it, so it’s nice that you give it a thumbs up. I will check it out now.

Nicole August 19, 2011 at 4:57 pm

I love Lisa See. Her most recent novel is actually a sequel to Shaghai Girls called Dreams of Joy. It was very interesting but like much of her work, very sad at times. I have read most of her novels and every one has made me cry.

konner August 20, 2011 at 5:36 am

If you are interested in reading another excellent book about sisters weathering insanely difficult circumstances, Rena’s Promise by Rena Kornreich is one of the best Holocaust memoirs I’ve ever read. She and her younger sister survived living in Auschwitz for almost five years. Their tattooed numbers were I think 1446 and 2779- that’s how early they were sent to the camps, and yet they still survived, mainly because they were together. Sister love is awesome.

Leminh August 23, 2011 at 7:06 am

I listened to this book on tape in the car and loved it. It’s not my type of novel at all but i’m glad i gave it a chance. and i’m thrilled that there is a sequel, can’t wait to check it out!

Meredith August 25, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Your summary really has me intrigued. :)
Lately, I’ve enveloped myself with the Thursday Next (yes, that’s the protagonist’s name) novels by Jasper Fforde. He is a witty, Welsh writer (I’m sorry, but that alliteration should have anyone interested), and I’m so happy I stumbled upon these books. His take on an alternate history is pretty entertaining.

Grace September 13, 2011 at 8:47 pm

I loved the book Shanghai Girls, the sequel, Dreams of Joy was really good too.
My favorite book by Lisa See is Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, it’s actually my favorite book. So I would recommend that one too.