The thing I like about books situated during World War II is, it’s filled with drama. Most of the drama is usually heart wrenching and sad – naturally, given that during those times, the world was not a very nice place to live in. Even the after effects of war results in dramatic impact on every day lives of people. Shanghai Girls follows the events of two sisters during World War II from China to their journey to the US.
I recall reading some other’s reviews where they did not really understand the close knit family relationships and traditions in a family like Pearl’s and May’s. Therefore it’s hard to identify what they are feeling and going through. It’s different in my case, since I come from an Asian background (well, half of me is). I understand and relate to Pearl but also to May in many ways. Me, being the youngest in the family, yes I was indulged and spoiled rotten by my parents and other family members. On the other hand as I grew older, I became my parents’ caretaker while my other siblings go to live free and wild. In that case, I understand the life Pearl leads through in the book as she adheres to Chinese tradition and takes care of nearly every member of the “family” while her younger sister goes out and has the life only Pearl can dream of.
I can’t really relate to the sisterly relationship between the two although from what I hear, my sister has done sacrifices for me when I was young (although I was too young to remember). I think the reason why I can’t really relate to that part is because our age differences are rather large so it’s hard to understand each other when she’s twice as old as I am.
I admire Pearl for her steadfastness and quiet strength and the ardous events she goes through to protect her sister. You sympathize with her a lot because of her sacrifices and all the crap she is put through in order to be together with her sister. May on the other hand, I find hard to like. She’s a spoiled selfish twit that seems to think only of herself and screws everything up in the end and you wonder how Pearl never had the urge just to kill this stupid woman for ruining her life (you’d have to read it to find out). I like the relationship between Pearl and Sam, they seemed to be well made for each other and made a great couple. Joy was another character I hated a lot. I suppose it would be unfair to judge her this way as she was just a young dreamer filled with these visions of grandeur of Communist China and just could not understand what her parents went through but she was just another person I felt like slapping across the face with an encyclopedia.
The story is very well done. Some parts are just heart wrenching and sad, some are very tender and loving. In other words, it’s such an emotional roller coaster which makes this story extremely dramatic yet realistic. It’s a story of a relationship of two sisters who make it through thick and thin, through very horrible circumstances, yet they survive because of their unconditional love and loyalty to each other. I admire these two qualities in these two women which gave them the strength to carry on with their lives. There are very strong emotions in this novel and you can actually feel them as you read.
Other things to note about this book; I love the cover. I love this kind of art I think it’s very beautiful and eye catching. It’s a suiting cover as the girls worked as “Beautiful Girls” for posters and ads during their time in Shanghai. The next thing I want to add: I wonder if there is going to be a sequel to this book? it does leave a little bit of a loose end in the finale that leaves room for a second book to follow. If it is the case, then I will be reading it, definitely.
I give this book an 8 out of 10.