Monday, September 12, 2011

Dreams of Joy

Every once in a while, I read a book that I enjoy so much that I want to go ahead and blog about it before I finish. This time, I did make myself wait, but just barely. I discovered Lisa See's novels through my book club awhile ago. We always seem to enjoy historical fiction, getting some of our travel in vicariously as well. We started with Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, progressing on through Peony in Love and Shanghai Girls.

I didn't pick up Dreams of Joy right away, and I'm not sure why, except that I just had such a large stack of OTHER books to read. I had obviously missed the information that it is a sequel to Shanghai Girls, this time following daughter Joy, as she gets caught into the idealism of the Maoist Revolution while in college. When she feels responsible for the death of the man she always knew as her father, she takes off for China to find her "real dad" and to take part in what she believes will be the excitement of change.

In the novel, See moves back and forth between that of Joy and her mother Pearl, who returns to China to find her. The story of what happens when idealism runs head on into reality leads to some real horrors. I knew very little about China during this particular period, so the book just whetted my appetite to learn more.

Looking back over the four books, I realize that while what I like about her writing style remains consistent--the details that put me right there, the characters who become so real--no two books are alike. This particular sequel could certainly stand on its own, but read along with Shanghai Girls, the reader gets to know four generations of a family of strong, survivor females.

Since I visited China in 1997 with my friend Debbie and her family when they adopted their daughter Allie, I am particularly interested in that country.

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