Friday, April 23, 2010

See, Lisa (Shanghai Girls)

I'm pleased that this book seems to be telling it like it is, i.e., the gory details of wartime Shanghai as the Japanese are invading. Better than some other tales from that time (i.e., The Distant Land of My Father) that tend to gloss over the horror of war and the indescribable ambiance and character of 1930s Shanghai. So for that, I am grateful.

Still, in many ways this book felt like a list to me. Everything that could possibly happen to these sisters, and their entire family, did, down to the burning (twice) of L.A.'s original Chinatown. To me it seemed as if See was cataloging all the interviews she had conducted (and she talks about those in the author's note at the end), and stuffing them in sideways and sometimes backwards.

It's not that I didn't feel the girls' plight because See is not a bad writer, but I actually stopped halfway through to finish another book and felt not all that interested in returning to the story. It just wasn't compelling, or at least not to me.

The most fascinating aspect was the concept of the Chinese beautiful girl, and there I learned quite a bit. It's also clear that See expects to be writing a sequel that would have the potential to say more about this art form. You could find me signing up for more, if that happens.

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