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

Snow Flower and The Secret Fan

Yesterday, many friends from school brought me Chinese food for lunch. I’d prepared a centerpiece of baby eucalyptus leaves, supported by river rocks in a crystal vase, hung with about fifteen origami fans I made. Little, miniature fans of many colors and patters. I asked each woman to choose one before she left as a reminder of our time together.

We were meeting as friends, but also for an opportunity to discuss the novel Snow Flower and The Secret Fan. I know what you might be thinking: “She didn’t like Eragon because it was too close to The Lord of the Rings, so she won’t like Snow Flower and The Secret Fan because it’s too close to Memoirs of a Geisha.” Au contraire! I loved this book.

It is the story of two girls growing up in China during the time that foot binding still took place. We learn of their customs, their families, their friendships, and of Snow Flower’s Secret which I’m not going to disclose here. (Email me if you’re dying to know.) What I enjoyed the most is how the author, Lisa See, delved into relationships. She showed us mother/daughter relationships, husband/wife relationships, friendships, and the clash between the rich and the poor. I also loved reading of China, with its food, silks, and landscape. I highly recommend this book.

Although, if you’ve recently had foot surgery, the pages and pages of description about foot binding might make you cringe. Did you know that the smaller a woman’s foot, the more sexually attractive she was to a man? Did you know that the smaller a woman’s foot the better chance she had of making a good marriage? Amazing. I made the comment that many ways women have of making themselves more beautiful involve sacrifice of some kind: elongating one’s neck in Africa, shortening one’s feet in China, slimming oneself in America. Food for thought.

p.s. Thanks to Di, here’s a link to show you what foot binding looks like.