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Monday, April 2, 2012

Dreams of Joy

Not sure how to link it, but back in July of 2009 I reviewed Shanghai Girls by Lisa See. The basic review was that I loved the history and the relationships but hated the ending.  Dreams of Joy is the sequel, it delivered again on the great relationships and historical details, and this time had a great ending. 

See's Dreams of Joy picks up the story of sisters Pearl and May where Shanghai Girls left off: on the night in 1957 when Pearl's daughter, Joy, discovers that May is her true mother. WhileShanghai Girls followed the sisters from their time as models in the glittering "Paris of Asia" to their escape from the Japanese invasion and their new life in Los Angeles, its sequel sends Pearl back to Shanghai twenty years later in pursuit of Joy, whose flight to China is propelled by anger, idealism, and a desire to find her true father, Z.G., an artist who may be falling out of favor with the Party. Joy goes with him deep into the countryside to the Green Dragon commune, where they take part in the energetic inception of Mao’s Great Leap Forward. But their collective dream of a communist paradise is soon overshadowed by hunger as the government’s bizarre agricultural mandates create a massive, relentless famine. Pearl, trapped in Shanghai as travel restrictions tighten, has little idea of the hardship Joy endures--until both women realize they must subvert a corrupt system in order to survive. The best estimates put the death toll from China’s Great Leap Forward at 45 million, and See is unflinching in her portrayal of this horrific episode. In clean prose, she gives us a resounding story of human resilience, independent spirits, and the power of the love between mothers and daughters. --Mari Malcolm

I have been reading a lot of magazines lately and it was great to get lost in a book again.  I was fascinated at the historical parts describing Mao's China.  So much needless suffering.  Perhaps because of my current state, I especially loed all of the mother daughter interactions.  If you haven't read either, do yourself a favor, they are worth your time.  A

1 comment:

Ελλάδα said...

Every generation wants independence and to forge a new and separate life from the mothers who seem to over protect them. Sometimes it takes tragedy, extreme hardship and even death before we see that we become our mothers and that is not always a bad thing.

This story begins with "Shanghai Girls" and will take on a greater depth of meaning if you read that book first. It can stand alone though, because Ms. Lisa See is a brilliant author.

I read her books because of the cultural connections she brings to her stories. Ms. See is a Chinese-American and had done extensive travel and research when working on her projects. This is a story of love, heart break, patriotism, roots, longings and unbelievable horror. The details are hard to read and harder to absorb, but that's what makes this novel feel so real. Where else would you learn that the shelters were so cold that the farmers had to sleep on top of their work clothes so they would be a little warmer in the morning. Women getting the monthly visit from the Little Red Sister would have to wrap sand in cloth and wedge it between their legs, because sanitary products were unheard of. During The Great Leap Forward, Chairman Mao had the starving farmers put their harvests piled up on the roadways so that people passing through would think there was so much food that the farmers could feed the world.