Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Dreams of Joy by Lisa See

Dreams of Joy by Lisa See  (2011, 354 pages)

I enjoy well researched historical novels set in Asia.     Lisa See has written three very well done exciting novels based in China (and the USA), Peony in Love,  Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Shanghai Girls.   I liked and enjoyed reading all three of these books.    

Dreams of Joy is a sequel to Shanghai Girls.   Shanghai Girls is the story of two sisters raised in post WWII Shanghai who are forced due to circumstances brought on by the gambling debts of their father to immigrate to the USA.   They and their mother experience terrible hardships and brutality.   I got to know the two sisters pretty well along with various members of their families.   Shanghai Girls ended on a cliff hanger.   The teenage daughter of  one of the sisters has decided (it is 1957) to follow a boyfriend and go to China to look for her biological father and participate in Mao's Great Leap Forward.

Joy has been raised in in American comfort.   She seems very spoiled and pays little attention to her elders.   She is also very naive.    I was shocked when she surrendered her passport to Chinese authorities knowing they would not return it to her.   

Joy ends up joining a collective farm.   In spite of all the claims to the contrary, bribes go a long way in Mao's China and Joy is able to get to acquire the paperwork she needs.    She ends up easily, really too easily I thought, finding her real father (a poster artist) and joins him in the countryside teaching the people to make posters glorying China, Mao, and the hero workers.   Her mother Pearl also pretty easily finds her daughter and even her own father.    There are a lot of plot twists and turns.   Joy marries against her mother's advise.    (The plot is complicated by old deceptions developed in Shanghai Girls about who the real father and mother of Joy are.)

See does a very good job bringing bringing this era to life for( around 1957 to 1961) us.    There is a lot of interesting details about life on collective farms.  

I think you should probably read Shanghai Girls before you read Dreams of Joy, otherwise you will have a hard time getting interested in the main characters.   

Dreams of Joy does not end on a cliff hanger.   The weakest part of the novel is the some of the character development.   I thought the father should have been brought more to life, for example.

I am glad I read this book.   I think you should first read Shanghai Girls and  if you like it a lot then I would endorse Dreams of Joy to you.   

In the interests of full disclosure, I was sent a review copy of this book by 
Random House.   

Please share your experience with Lisa See with us-

Mel u


Sam (Tiny Library) said...

I loved Shanghai Girls, so can't wait to read this one!

Jinky said...

Hoping to get my hands on this soon ..waiting for it to be returned at my library. :)

Mystica said...

I won Shanghai Girls and then lost it in the post! so hopefully I will get to this one soon.

Anna said...

I loved Shanghai Girls so I'm really looking forward to reading this one!

Brooke said...

Every time I pass that book in a store, I keep thinking "I really should read that." I've read Shanghai Girls and enjoyed it, though I preferred Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Peony in Love. I think I'll reread Shanghai Girls, since there was so much going on with that plot that I've probably forgotten some important details. After that, I'll have to try Dreams of Joy.

Italia said...

The novel is harrowing and fascinating, filled with facts: Maoists believed bras were oppressive and confiscated them. Chinese scientists signed confessions that Chinese moon was larger than the American moon. Chinese citizens--even highly skilled educators and scientists--were made to farm six days a week, only to have government leaders confiscate the harvest. Metal pots, pans, and silverware were collected and melted in local furnaces, leaving citizens with no means to cook. Across the county, people were reported for not being "red" enough and were subjected to public humiliation and harsh punishment. Suicide became so rampant in large cities that netting was placed around the windows to prevent people from jumping to their deaths. By the end of the Great Leap Forward's second winter, entire communities died of starvation.