Shanghai Girls

In Shanghai, life flows like an endlessly serene river for the wealthy, the lucky, the fortunate. For those with bad fates, the smell of desperation is as strong as a rotting corpse. (p. 41)

That, my friends, is about all the hope you’re going to find in this book.

I really struggled with it.

It dragged me endlessly from one betrayal, rape, death, and illness to another.

On almost every page someone was wounded by someone else, either emotionally or physically. Husbands and wives, parents and children, cultures and classes, and even governments and citizens were at odds with each other. The only relationship that we’re left to believe in is the one of these sisters who, despite every adversity imaginable, cling to each other in devotion and love.

If you have a sister, then perhaps this book is for you. As for me, the characters, and all the other events in these 309 pages, have simply left me with an enormous heartache.

(I am in a huge minority here, as almost every review I’ve read shows great affection for this novel. Why not see for yourself? I have two copies to give away; simply leave a comment below for a chance to win one of them.)

Find other stops along the tour here:
Monday, January 18th:  Booking Mama

Tuesday, January 19th:  Booking Mama author guest post

Tuesday, January 19th:  Savvy Verse & Wit

Thursday, January 21st:  Book, Line, and Sinke

rFriday, January 22nd:  Word Lily

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53 thoughts on “Shanghai Girls”

  1. Blimey this sounds like this is a book with a real punch and takes you on rather an emotionally harrowing journey. Sometimes I do think that you need books like this, just maybe some forwarning is good.

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  2. Don't enter me in the contest since I already own this book. I am so sad that you didn't like it since I loved it! I agree that there are a lot of sad people who just didn't get the life they wanted, not denying that! But, I loved the writing, the setting, the immigrant experiences, etc. I wasn't depressed by it for some reason.

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  3. I haven't read any of Lisa See's stuff, but I think I'll be starting with Snow Flower and the Secret fan. This one sounds a bit too gloomy for me at the current moment, but I'll probably give it a go if Snow Flower goes well.Very thoughtful review, Bellezza! Nothing wrong with being in the bloggy minority. 🙂

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  4. Bellezza, I'm so sorry this wasn't for you. As a huge Lisa See fan, I enjoyed it tremendously, but of all her books Snow Flower remains my favorite. THis one did have a lot of drama and things happening in the beginning but then the story settles down to a story about sisters, and I always like a book with a sibling dynamic.ANYway, thanks so much for the time you put into reading and reviewing this book. We really appreciate it, and again, I'm sorry it wasn't for you. Thanks!

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  5. I am so glad someone else voiced this opinion as well. Everyone else I've spoken to absolutely raves about this book. I certainly did not enjoy it, and had to force myself to finish it, setting a goal of 50 pages a day, and then 30 and then 25! This is the first book I've read by Lisa See and unfortunately, I think it will also be my last.

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  6. Wow, that came as a shock! It is always refreshing, though, to see a different opinion. I don't have a problem with dark stories, as long as I am aware and read it at the right time. I have the book on my shelves. I shall plan carefully when I read it!

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  7. Maybe it just hit me at the wrong time; as every thing kept getting upsetting, and especially when I came to the part of her husband at the end, I just couldn't bear it any longer. So sad! I'm glad you weren't depressed by it, and the immigrant experience is probably so dead on.

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  8. Snow Flower is my favorite, too, and I feel badly that this one upset me so much. However, I felt I had to write a review which reflected my experience, and every one comes to a book with different points of view. This is a book I'd wanted to read, and I'm certainly not sorry I did. Thank you for including me in the tour.

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  9. Dark books certainly have their place; the world is not happy or positive for us all, certainly not all the time. This book, though, just kept getting more and more upsetting until I felt very little hope at all. Thank goodness the sisters had each other at least.

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  10. You're right about a lot of other bloggers liking it. I've read only good things about it so far. But then again, it's good to get a different perspective of books. It makes the book a little bit more real.I haven't read anything from Lisa See, and like so many others, I'd love to try Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. But you said this book might be for people with sisters. Well, I have one, and we're very close. So maybe I'd like it if I got the chance to read it?But it's too bad you didn't enjoy it. Hope the next book gives you more pleasure..

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  11. Nope. Just like Water For Elephants, I've been holding off, waiting for the hype to die down. I think I'm just about ready to give it a read. Hmm, that will be two Japanese titles so far this year. Maybe I should join your challenge! 😉

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  12. Yours is the first negative review I've read and I really appreciate your honesty. I've had this on my list for awhile but tend to wait until all of the hoopla dies down before I read these kinds of books anyway. I do have sisters but not sure if that would be enough for me to connect with the story but I will give it a try at some point in the future, I'm sure.

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  13. Sadistic that I am, I like to get a chance of experiencing the agony that you went through! Count me in for the giveaway. I read her book "Peony in Love", can't say I hate it, can't I say I love it either.If everyone loves the same thing, the world would be a boring place to live in. 🙂

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  14. Kathleen, it's nice to meet you, thanks for visiting. It's good to not get caught up in all the attention a book is getting as it can taint one's opinin. I'm certain I was disappointed in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo because I expected perfection.

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  15. That's the problem I have with Chinese stories. Sometimes it feels like they're sad just for the sake of being sad. I don't have a sister, but I may try the book. Just have to be in the right mindset for it before reading!

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  16. Sorry that you didn't like it. I haven't read any of See's earlier works so I don't know what to expect. But I'd definitely like to taste her work and figure out soon. Let's see. I'd love to join in on the contest.

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  17. Bellezza, I'm sorry that your experience with this book was difficult.I loved this book! It is heartbreakingly sad at times, but that's part of what makes this story so compelling. I can't wait for the sequel. No need to enter me in this contest as I already have the book. 🙂

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  18. I would like to read this book, because I've read her other novels and enjoyed them. Sometimes, though, novels filled with so much sadness and pain and unfairness are just too difficult to read. I tend to get very involved with the characters in books, and find myself very sensitive about them. There were parts of Snow Flower that I found difficult too.

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  19. Lisa See is on my radar because so many people loved Snowflower and the Secret Fan–and this book! I am glad that you were honest in your opinion of it; it is important to know the 'bad' as well as the 'good'. I'm going to wait a bit before reading her. Thank you, Bellezza. Yours is a voice that I trust.

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  20. I dont know whether overseas readers are allowed to apply for this giveaway but in case they are please count me in. Maybe the sadness was too much – sometimes it can be overwhelming. Its best to stop then and not get buried in sadness.

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  21. You've just reminded me why I've put off buying this book when I first read a review of it. It sounds rather heartbreaking, as you say. But yes, recent reviews from other blogs have also convinced me that I should at least give it a try. It is after all a story of beautiful Chinese women, something that's always a plus for me ;)If a copy is still available, I'd like to sign-up for the giveaway. Thanks Bellezza!

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  22. I don't think I've read enough Chinese literature to know about them being written for the sake of being sad. Amy Tan's work was surely sad, though, and I hate that she took her life. Maybe I should start reading more Chinese literature along with my Japanese! 😉

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  23. I get very involved, too, and this one struck an extremely personal chord with me particularly with one of the characters. I just couldn't bear it. I don't remember Snow Flower being quite so sad, however, I was relating to the foot binding in that one as I'd just recently had surgery on both of mine.

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  24. I thought she died after Saving Fish From Drowning, but now that I look it up on Google I can't find her death. Wow, I can't believe I made such a big mistake! But, you did hear that our Robert Parker died on Monday, at age 77, in his home? So sad!!!!

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  25. Bellezza, thanks for the honest review. I haven't read the other reviews on tour yet, but based on last year's reviews of this, a lot of bloggers didn't like it also, as they were disappointed that it was different from Snow Flower. I also really liked Snow Flower and also Peony in Love. Guessing that I might like this, as well, as I sometimes like depressing reads, haha. I also have two sisters who are very close to me.

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  26. Yes, I heard about RP. So sad. 77 isn't very old, but apparently he died of a heart attack. At his desk. I loved his Sunny Randall series. Now I have his Spenser and Jessie books to look forward to. I might even try some of his westerns. I hear the friendships between the characters are worth reading about.

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