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China Dolls: A Novel Audio CD – Audiobook, CD, Unabridged by Lisa See (Author)

I was very excited to read China Dolls for two reasons; I have read and really enjoyed Lisa See’s other books, and I was intrigued by the quote, attributed to Buddha, before the title page. .."Only three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth. " I THOUGHT this meant I was about to embark on a novel of discovery of long buried and fascinating secrets. I wasn’t. I found this book to be so far below the standards of other books by this author, I often wondered if she had REALLY written it; the style of writing and quality of language usage were a disappointment. Although the story itself. ..three young Asian women living in San Francisco before, during and after WW2 while trying to become nightclub stars. .. had promise, so much of it was just too incredible. For example, the three women meet and, within 5 minutes, become best friends; Helen, who has led a very sheltered life in her family’s compound, has never danced in public, let alone taken a dance lesson. ..and yet, after her new friends show her a few steps on the sidewalk, she passes the audition and gets a job in the night club show. I also found the characters to be too simplistic, shallow and times, the three women seemed more like three 7-year-olds "playing grown-up. " There is such a disconnect between these women and the characters of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan or Peony in Love. The same goes for the general style of narrative; there is one paragraph in particular where Helen is describing their Christmas celebration which was so simplistic as to be almost juvenile; "I gave Grace rouge; she gave me a hat. I gave Eddie a necktie; Grace gave him a scarf. Eddie gave me a one pound box of candy. " The telling of the narrative was a constant and continuous recurring cycle of ups-and-downs/ happiness/ jealousy/ envy/bitchiness. ..over and over again. . .Helen and Ruby were friends and Grace was left out; then Grace and Ruby were friends and Helen was left out. .. I finished reading this book ONLY because I needed to write this review. If this had been a library book, I would have returned it unfinished. ..and I RARELY don’t finish a book that I have started Check it out!

From Booklist The lives of three young Chinese-American women—Grace, Helen, and Ruby—intersect in valuable and often violent ways in pre-WWII San Francisco as they shed their drab former lives to become glamorous entertainers at the city’s rising hot spot, the Forbidden City nightclub. Despite their divergent backgrounds, a mutual desire to shatter the cultural stereotypes that doom them to lives of familial subservience feeds their ambition to prosper in a world in which the definition of success changes minute by minute. Though they’ve taken a “one for all” vow of eternal loyalty, each harbors secrets that cause a pervasive atmosphere of distrust to simmer just below the surface. When Ruby is revealed to actually be of Japanese heritage and deported to an internment camp, their friendships and fortunes suffer a mortal blow, one that only deepens as the war rages on. In her impeccably researched and distinctive historical saga of desire and ambition, betrayal and revenge set amid the glitz and debauchery of burlesque entertainment on the “chop suey circuit,” See (Dreams of Joy, 2011) again lavishly explores the thorny intricacies of female friendships. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The alluring setting of always-popular Lisa See’s latest work of women-oriented historical fiction will be vigorously promoted in print, radio, and online as the author embarks on a 10-city tour. –Carol Haggas –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

China Dolls: A Novel Audio CD – Audiobook, CD, Unabridged by Lisa See (Author) Review

Helen, Ruby and Grace are Chinese American women who meet in a pre-WWII San Francisco. They immediately become fast friends in spite of their differences. Helen is from a traditional Chinese family, who all live together in a compound. Her brother must escort her everywhere she goes. Grace has run away from a small Ohio town and an abusive father, in search of her dream as a dancer. Ruby keeps the details of her background a secret. I’m a huge fan of Lisa See. Peony in Love and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan are two of my absolute favorites. Shanghai Girls and Dreams of Joy are right up there too. I’m fascinated by See’s stories of the Chinese way of life. But I have to say China Dolls fell far short. I felt as if the author rushed through. The pacing was way off and writing, choppy and juvenile in parts. At first I wondered if See had even written this. I checked the publication date, thinking possibly it was something she’d written long ago before perfecting her craft. It was released in 2015. So much for that theory. Lisa See is a wonderful writer, China Dolls however was not her best effort. I’d skip this one in favor of her other works which are far more enjoyable. -Read Reviews-

This is the first Lisa See book I have read, and from perusing the reviews, it appears that her other books may be better written. I read this book for my book club, and had a difficult time finishing it. The three women that she has created present so much opportunity for character development, yet See failed to give each of them her own unique voice. And despite the possibilities presented by first person narration, See makes the mistake that reveals her as a lazy writer: instead of letting readers draw their own conclusions by observing the characters’ behavior, she tells us how to feel and perceive each situation. I did learn some things about the lives of Asian people in the US during World War II, so the book was not a waste of time. I wish I could read a similar book, written by a more skilled author.

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