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4.0 out of 5 starsGreat Sequel - gives you a feel for PRC in the late 1950’s
Reviewed in the United States on July 12, 2020
I really liked that the author let the story be told thru the characters eyes. Joy, a young, naive American who is very upset with her family decides to go the PRC ( the People’s Republic of China) in 1957 to find her birth father in Shanghai. She is 19 and has heard in college about how Chairman Mao and the leaders of PRC are making China into a paradise for all. Her mother Pearl follows her and has her own experiences in the new Shanghai her home city. The story covers the Great Leap Forward and how it affected both the countryside and the cities of PRC thru the lives of the characters. Very evocative.
3.0 out of 5 starsI missed the poetry of See's other books
Reviewed in the United States on March 19, 2013
The ending of Shanghai Girls left me wanting more so it was with relief I found See had written a sequel. I immediately ordered a copy of Dreams of Joy. And just as quickly, I found the story of the headstrong Joy who throws herself at the feet of her real father, an artist still living in Shanghai lacking in the poetry I loved about See's writing in Peony in Love and Shanghai Girls.
See researched both books extensively, but I could not warm up to the character of Joy. Pearl follows her to China, and it is the story of Pearl, who sacrifices everything to return to her homeland to chase after Joy. Her love and devotion moved me because her actions are unselfish and motivated by love. Joy reacts to life's events without thought of anything but herself. As a result, she ends up in a loveless marriage of her own choosing. In the end, the love of Pearl rescues her.
I grew tired of reading the endless scenes of poverty and starvation and cruelty and deprivation. I feel selfish even writing that sentence because these conditions did and do exist for those living under dictatorships couched under euphemisms of social reform and power to the people. Perhaps that was See's intent with this book - to make the reading of it as intolerable as the conditions she repeatedly shows.
Even though I didn't enjoy Dreams of Joy as much as her other novels, I give praise to See for writing such detailed accounts of historical events that must be remembered lest we forget, and worse, repeat. Novels that entertain and inform stand a chance of making a difference, and I don't fault her for doing that in both of these books. I just wanted to be swept away by both, and that didn't happen with the sequel.
Reviewed in the United States on February 17, 2013
Dreams of Joy is a story about love- a mother's love for her child. This novel is the sequel to Shanghai girls. Joy ,Pearl's daughter and May's niece learns that May is her true biological mother and Pearl is her aunt. She also learns that the father she adored was not her real father. Her biological father is a handsome, charming and talented artist named Z.G. who has carved out his own career in communist China. Joy also feels responsible for her purported father's suicide. He too never knew that Joy was not his biological daughter. Joy an idealistic University of Chicago student who has become a communist. The enchanting philosophy of communism appeals to her sense of charity and justice. She runs off to China both to escape the reality of her discovery, her guilt over her purported father's death, to find her biological father, and to participate in the new China. Both Pearl and May are horrified. They realize nineteen year old Joy's mistake and Pearl takes off after her while May stays home to look after their business interests. Joy finds her father,marries an illiterate and poor country boy, makes her home in the countryside, and gives birth to her own daughter in rustic impoverished circumstances. Shortly after her marriage, she realizes she made a mistake in choosing her spouse. He quickly becomes unfaithful and uncaring. Further, he becomes out right cruel to her when she bears him a daughter instead of a son. Even though the communists have tried to improve the status and importance of women in the culture, the strong Chinese bias in favor of sons persists especially in rural areas. Yet none of Joy's letters about her changed feelings and circumstances reach Pearl. By the time Joy realizes that Communism does not work and that she has made a terrible mistake, she is trapped in a famine in rural China. She and her child as well as all the villagers are starving. People die every day. They have taken to killing and eating their female infants and Joy realizes her daughter's very existence depends on her escape from the countryside. Correspondence is strictly censored. Pearl who is now living in Shanghai has no idea that her daughter is living in such dire circumstances. During his failing leap year program Mao tries to hide the famine rampant in China from the world. Hence Pearl cannot get a travel permit for the countryside even though she has never seen her grandchild who is only a one day's journey away. Even though food shortages have reached Shanghai, Pearl and Z.G. have no idea how dire Joy's circumstances are. None of her letters arrive in Shanghai and all the little correspondence Joy receives is strictly censored. The food and goods Pearl sends along with her letters are stolen before they reach Joy. Joy does not understand why her mother has not responded to her many requests for help, but she assumes that Pearl has not received her letters. Finally Joy finds a way to surreptitiously notify Pearl. Once Pearl learns of the disastrous conditions in which Joy is living, she and Z.G. devise a way to rescue her. Z.G. is a prominent communist artist and has been in the movement since before Japan's invasion of China. Together they rescue Joy and her daughter. They also rescue her husband. After saving Joy and her child from starvation and the privations of the countryside, Pearl and Z.G. begin to devise a method to get her and themselves out of China. May finances all of the work by running Pearl's cafe and her business in Los Angeles. She awaits them in Hong Kong. Meanwhile Pearl has truly fallen in love with the professor living in what was once her family home and where she now occupies one room. They marry before the escape plan is hatched. He is her true love. I will not tell the ending here. See pulls the bamboo curtain back and we see communist china with all its warts. This book is well written. These may not be pulitzer prize winning novels, but they are every bit as satisfying when read together as Snowflower and the Secret Fan. See has an excellent command of the English language. She paints a clear picture of life in pre-World War II Shanghai, war torn Shanghai, life for the Chinese immigrant in the U.S. and life in Mao's communist China. This story about life, love, betrayal and war covers all the emotions and is a satisfying read. Sure there are some contrived events, but sometimes that is just good story telling. See is a master story teller. Most readers will be truly satisfied.
4.0 out of 5 starsExcellent continuation of Shanghai Girls
Reviewed in the United States on October 6, 2014
The writing was very well done and I loved how the story continued from the first book. It had been about a year since I read the first one, but there were enough 'clues' in this book to remind me of all of the pertinent plot points I had forgotten. It was very interesting to see this side of what was happening in China during this period in history. We never really learn much about it in school because it doesn't directly involve the US and for some reason the school systems don't deem Asian history worth knowing(why?) But the story was well told. You have to get used to the fact that the POV switches back and forth between mother and daughter, but I think it was a good way to understand what was really happening and to feel the desperation of both women. If you enjoyed the first novel 'Shanghai Girls', then I highly recommend continuing the story of Joy, Pearl, May and ZG.
5.0 out of 5 starsRead Shanghai Girls first, this is part 2.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 21, 2020
You need to read Shanghai Girls by this author first as this book is the continuation of the story. These two books make a very interesting read, the first is full of information about the Chinese immigrants in USA last century, interwoven with the story of the two girls and their harrowing lives. The second is what happened next, lots of inside info on Maoist China, clearly well researched by author. If you enjoy a story about people with a bit of history thrown in you will find it a very good read. I was sorry to finish it! sign of a good book, will be passing it on to a friend.
This book will haunt you long after you've read it, and maybe also make you want to find out more about Mao's Great Leap Forward. The book is about Joy who always believed her mother was her aunt and her aunt was her mother - confusing but it becomes clear as the book unfolds. Joy holds a lot of guilt about the man she always believed to be her father, Sam, I won't say any more because I don't want to spoil it for those of you who haven't read this yet. The shock of her finding out that everything she believed turned out to be a lie makes her travel to China where she looks for her real father. Lisa See has a wonderful way of evoking Shanghai during this period and you can almost see and smell the city and it's people, and like everywhere, some are good and some are bad. You meet some really interesting characters, Joy does meet with her real father who is a famous artist and travels to a commune in Green Dragon Village to help him teach art to the peasants. Mao is idolised by his people and is thought of as a God who has come down to earth and to begin with Joy also sees him in this way. You also get a feel of how everyone is brainwashed into believing this. Later though thanks to Mao's grandiose reform policies which were not at all thought through the country is in the grips of absolute starvation. Again Lisa See evokes this harrowing time brilliantly - she writes about truly horrendous actions both done to and done by the peasants in such a way that it's almost as if you're there and you're starving and too weak to really comprehend the horror all around you. I don't want to say anything about any of the characters because I don't want to put down any spoilers. But I really do think that this is a book that you will think about long after you've read it.
5.0 out of 5 starsAnother of my favourite authors. Loved reading this and a real page-turner
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 21, 2018
Another of my favourite authors. Loved reading this and a real page-turner. Always leaves me thinking I want more as the people take me back into another experience and place I would love to have visited.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 7, 2013
I read Shanghai Girls and couldn't wait to read Dreams of Joy to see what happened to all the characters. I was not disappointed. I thought this book was better than the prequel. Reading about the famine was disturbing and really brought home how horrific things can be. Only little that disappointed me was I would have liked to hear more about May as well. I love Lisa See 's books and can't wait to read the next one