Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

book cover of Shanghai Girls

For me this novel treads a lot of the same ground as China Dolls (except that China Dolls was actually published later, even if I read it before), but is a lot more mature. It takes place in the same time period, also focuses on the Chinese community in California, and both novels discuss (to varying degrees) the Japanese invasion of China and Chinese involvement in the US entertainment industry. So, if you like one, you will probably appreciate the other.

As I implied, I preferred this one. While the novel begins with Pearl (the narrator) and May (her sister) being young, immature and carefree in Shanghai, the narration “grows up” sharply as Pearl does. There is a lot less stupid “boy drama”. While I gave China Dolls four stars with some reservations, Shanghai Girls has fully earnt them.


a cartoony avatar of Jessica Smith is a socialist and a feminist who loves animals, books, gaming, and cooking; she’s also interested in linguistics, history, technology and society.