Dreams of Joy by Lisa See

Reeling from newly uncovered family secrets, and anger at her mother and aunt for keeping them from her, Joy runs away to Shanghai in early 1957 to find her birth father—the artist Z.G. Li, with whom both May and Pearl were once in love. Dazzled by him, and blinded by idealism and defiance, Joy throws herself into the New Society of Red China, heedless of the dangers in the communist regime. Devastated by Joy’s flight and terrified for her safety, Pearl is determined to save her daughter, no matter the personal cost. From the crowded city to remote villages, Pearl confronts old demons and almost insurmountable challenges as she follows Joy, hoping for reconciliation. Yet even as Joy’s and Pearl’s separate journeys converge, one of the most tragic episodes in China’s history threatens their very lives. (From Amazon.ca)

I was very disappointed with this book. I had high hopes because I really did enjoy Shanghai Girls. The beginning of the book wasn’t so bad actually. It was pretty interesting. I liked the way you follow Joy through her journey to China – it was an eye opener, but her naivete also gets the best out of her as well. The reader already knows she’s in for a quite a bit of pain and suffering and so sometimes you find yourself shaking your head at Joy’s blind faith in the system.

I actually preferred Pearl’s point of view of the story and her journey, because she had left so much behind and some questions were left unanswered. I loved how she went back home, back to her town and back to where she used to live, to find it radically changed, but she found people she recognized. It wasn’t really a reunion that would be considered nice, but after so many years of not seeing these people, it was nice to see they were still there. I really liked reading Pearl because she showed a lot of strength and courage to go back and face anything to get Joy back.

When the Great Leap Forward comes along, I liked how this was added in, to make the plot move, and to put Joy and Pearl’s journeys on a similar backdrop, but I just could not get into it. It was really slow and things just seemed to drag. The switching back and forth from Pearl to Joy wasn’t so bad but the pace of the book was about the same as watching molasses being poured out of a container. Joy’s plot really did seem to drag its’ heels. I did not know how much of her stupidity I could take.

The ending wasn’t so bad. However by the time I was almost done, I really wanted it to be done. It was very drawn out, and the writing just seemed really bland. It did not have the same dramatic tone as Shanghai Girls did. One thing I will mention though, this book does a good job in drawing out feelings from the reader.

It wasn’t the greatest book, if you’re a fan, or wanting to know what happens at the end of Shanghai Girls, well you might as well read it. Otherwise, you could just skip it. It’s too slow and bland to be fully enjoyed which is too bad, it would have been an excellent novel otherwise.

I give it a 5 out of 10.

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