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China Dolls by Lisa See

China Dolls

by Lisa See

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Recently added byprivate library, jessiebee, maristlibrary01, fumcod, nbyars, library_gal, fbwclib, strongasanoak
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    Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford (kqueue)
    kqueue: Both books deal with Asian-Americans at the onset of World War II and the injustices they suffered along with the tensions between Japanese-Americans and Chinese-Americans.

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Lisa See is always on the top of my list when looking for women’s historical fiction. This time she takes us to San Francisco’s pre-WWII Chinatown. Three women’s lives intertwine. Grace, a runaway from the Midwest, Ruby, a Japanese girl, who is posing as Chinese, and Helen, from a wealthy Chinese family forge a friendship as they look search for jobs in the nightclub business. World War II breaks out and their friendship is strained. Although this isn’t my favorite Lisa See book, I always appreciate looking at aspects of history about which I knew nothing—in this case the “Chop Suey” entertainment circuit and the animosity between the Chinese and the Japanese during WWII. Ed Sullivan, a gossip columnist, also shows up in the books. ( )
  brangwinn | Aug 31, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
What a wonderful story Lisa See delivers to us once again. We follow the lives of these three women who are introduced to us at a young age in San Francisco, as we share in their friendships and heartaches. The story is told from the perspectives of each of our main characters, Grace, Helen, and Ruby, so we get a glimpse into the reasons for their actions.

Grace is a young and innocent chinese girl that has fled to San Francisco in search of a better life. Grace is probably the most talented of our characters, but she will not experience success until later in the novel. Grace is an honorable friend who would do anything for those that she loves, so when her friendships with Helen and Ruby become stressed, her whole world is cast into turmoil.

Helen comes from a noble and wealthy Chinese family and lives with her entire family in a compound in the middle of Chinatown. Her family's status has given Helen a life of privilege, allowing her to not really want for anything. There is more to Helen that meets the eye as she fled from Shanghai with her family during the war, so she struggles to start her life over again.

Our third main character is Ruby, whose actions are wild and unpredictable. Ruby uses her body and beauty to help her advance quickly among the Chinese nightclubs. Ruby has her own dark secret, that once uncovered, will knock her status rank out from under her.

The main characters are brought together from odd circumstances, and even though they have different roles in various nightclubs, their friendship remains strong. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor the boundaries of their friendship becomes tested, sending the girls lives in separate directions. Lies and secrets keep them apart for years afterward leaving them yearning for the lost relationships.

Lisa See does a great job, as she always does, of setting up the time period for us. I learned several things from this novel about how oriental people were treated during this time, even before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. With themes of love, friendship, secrets, and forgiveness, I think you would enjoy this book as much as I did. It would be a great novel to read for personal leisure or as a book club discussion. ( )
  jo-jo | Aug 24, 2014 |
I love Lisa See's books but this book wasn't one of her best. I give it three stars instead of two because the subject matter was interesting. ( )
  CS2014 | Aug 8, 2014 |
I listened to the audio version of this book. The narrator irritated me to no end. If it were not for the material covered, I would have never finished this CD. I suggest that, if you are curious, read the paper edition.

The subject matter in China Dolls was interesting: Asian-American singer/performers during the 1930's through the 1950's, covering prewar to post-war America. In particular, the author portrayed the animosity between Japanese and Chinese-Americans. She gave deference to the Chinese perspective as told by those who lived in their native country during the time Japan attacked China - very brutal. The author also included the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII - how it felt to be an American citizen ripped away from one's life and essentially jailed for the duration of the war. Thus, she illustrated an era from varying points-of-view. See also elucidated on the nature of prejudice - the fact that it exists among and between all races in varying degrees, and that we cannot seem to escape our damaging inclination. The main purpose of See's book was to make people aware of the part Asian-Americans played in the entertainment field during this time, and how it affected their traditional cultural practices and beliefs.

Overall, I enjoyed the purpose of See's story, I simply did not like its delivery. It is not one of her strongest works, but it did provide some intriguing facts about the entertainment industry, all of which were previously unknown to me. In that regard, it was a relative success. ( )
  BALE | Aug 6, 2014 |
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Only three things cannot be long hidden:  the sun, the moon, and the truth.  (Attributed to Buddha)
For Henry Theodore Kendall
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I traveled west--alone--on the cheapest bus routes I could find.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 081299289X, Hardcover)

The New York Times bestselling author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Peony In Love, Shanghai Girls, and Dreams of Joy returns with her highly anticipated new novel. A bold and bittersweet story of secrets and sacrifice, love and betrayal, prejudice and passion, China Dolls reveals a rich portrait of female friendship, as three young women navigate the “Chop Suey Circuit”—America’s extravagant all-Asian revues of the 1930s and ’40s—and endure the attack on Pearl Harbor and the shadow of World War II.

(retrieved from Amazon Tue, 17 Dec 2013 00:23:03 -0500)

"In 1938, Ruby, Helen and Grace, three girls from very different backgrounds, find themselves competing at the same audition for showgirl roles at San Francisco's exclusive "Oriental" nightclub, the Forbidden City. Grace, an American-born Chinese girl has fled the Midwest and an abusive father. Helen is from a Chinese family who have deep roots in San Francisco's Chinatown. And, as both her friends know, Ruby is Japanese passing as Chinese. At times their differences are pronounced, but the girls grow to depend on one another in order to fulfill their individual dreams. Then, everything changes in a heartbeat with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Suddenly the government is sending innocent Japanese to internment camps under suspicion, and Ruby is one of them. But which of her friends betrayed her?"--… (more)

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