Shanghai 1937. No, this is not the opening for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. This is the beginning of two of the most wonderful stories I have read of late. These books are two, but should really be read together for continuity and because they are so beautifully written.
Shanghai Girls by Lisa See, follows Pearl and May Chin, two sisters who are living fashionably in Shanghai with the wealth of their father’s rickshaw business. The Chin sisters are Beautiful Girls, models for calendars and posters that adorn the city. They are brilliantly happy until their father tells them that he has gambled away the family fortune and the only way to save them all is to sell them to husbands overseas. Then the Japanese begin bombing the city and the book follows the Chin sisters’ exodus from China to a terrifyingly unknown life.
Dreams of Joy is the sequel to Shanghai Girls and begins with Pearl’s daughter, Joy, leaving behind the comforts of America to go back to China and live in the newly communist People’s Republic of China. Thus begins Pearl’s quest to find her daughter in the country she left behind, and Joy’s desire to find her Chinese self.
Lisa See tells her stories with terrific historical accuracy and heart. When you read a book by See, you really feel like you are experiencing the hardships right along with them. There is a section in Dreams of Joy that describes the terrible hunger that afflicted the people in the communes of communist China. Lisa See wrote the hunger and starvation with such empathy that I couldn’t help but feel that hunger and so many other things. I left these books with a desire to learn more about Communist China of then and now, a new outrage at the way leaders treat their people throughout the world, and a gratefulness that I was born into a country where everything is taken for granted.
Read these books.
Now I know that the drink I am choosing is actually Japanese, but it is my favorite and they drink it in the books, so I feel justified.
Plum wine is cheap and you can find it at the grocery store. At least in Texas anyway. It is usually about $6 a bottle and since it has such a high alcohol content, one bottle goes a long(er) way. The flavor is sweet and light and a cup of hot tea would complement the sweetness.
Happy Reading! Enjoy!