Sunday, May 15, 2011

Dreams of Joy

Dreams of Joy: A Novel
by Lisa See, Random House, May 2011

...lots of action, a genuine historical setting, characters that we have grown to know and like.

This story picks up where Shanghai Girls - a story about Pearl and May- two Shanghai sisters ended. The novel opens in the late 1950’s, with Joy, a Chinese–American girl raised as Pearl’s daughter but actually May’s daughter, leaving for China.  Joy is estranged from her mother and aunt and is returning to China to discover her true roots, participate in the building of the People’s Republic and find her real father (get the soap opera qualities of this story yet?).
Joy finds her father, Z.G., a famous communist artist. She accompanies him as he is sent to the Chinese countryside for “reeducation”. In the countryside Joy falls in love with Tao a young villager who aspires to be an artist like Z.G. Meanwhile Pearl has followed Joy to China to attempt to reconcile with her and have Joy return to the U.S.
The story is told in alternating first person narratives by Joy and Pearl, a technique that works well here.  Without giving you blow by blow of the story, suffice to say every horrible aspect of China’s struggles in the late 1950’s and early 60s are depicted in the lives of Joy, Pearl, Tao and Z.G. Scenes of public denunciation and punishment for all who are deemed not “red” enough are integral to the story. The disillusionment of the Chinese when communism is discovered to be the latest iteration  of failed government to inflicted misery on the poor people of this country is shown.  The starvation that killed millions in China when The Great Leap Forward failed is movingly portrayed in the story. Almost unimaginable things – cannibalism, and other barbaric practices were not unknown through this time period. Lastly the struggles of people to leave China and escape to Hong Kong and the west are also chronciled  here.

I know the review reads like soap and in some ways the story does also but it really is a good read - lots of action, a genuine historical setting, characters that we have grown to know and like. If you read and liked Shanghai Girls, you will enjoy this one. If you haven’t I’d read that one before reading Dreams of Joy. If you want to read Lisa See's best historical fiction read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan a fabulous book

I read an advanced reader copy of this novel provided by the publisher. 

4 comments:

Zibilee said...

I am going to be reading this one soon for review, and I had no idea that it was a second installment to Shanghai Girls! It's so good that you posted that, as I have not yet read the first, and now I am going to have to do that. Great review, by the way!

Julie @ Knitting and Sundries said...

For some reason, See's prose doesn't grab me the way it does a lot of others. I may try picking up Shanghai Girls to see if my opinion can be changed. Thanks for the review!

Hopping by from Cym's!

Lisa R/alterlisa said...

I've got the first book and need to get this one so I can read them together. My daughter has been raving about it since she read it.

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alterlisa AT yahoo DOT com
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UK said...

Lisa See has done it again! Reading her delightful stories transports me to a wonderous mysterious land filled with family secrets and tales to be shared. This book delights the reader (me) to a decade when societies evolve and grow along with the lives of its people involved. The book is the sequel to continue the adventures of two sisters, an artist from their past and families memembers discovered along the way in now what is known as communist China. There are many twists and turns that takes you through the lives and countryside scenery of that era. I highly recommend this extraordinary read, treasure the moments shared by Lisa See and the reader. I could not savour this story enough! It held my interest right up to the very last word. I look forward to more beautifully written books by Ms. See. She is a true treasure!