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Dreams of Joy: A Novel Hardcover – May 31, 2011

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Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, June 2011: See's Dreams of Joy picks up the story of sisters Pearl and May where Shanghai Girls left off: on the night in 1957 when Pearl's daughter, Joy, discovers that May is her true mother. While Shanghai Girls followed the sisters from their time as models in the glittering "Paris of Asia" to their escape from the Japanese invasion and their new life in Los Angeles, its sequel sends Pearl back to Shanghai twenty years later in pursuit of Joy, whose flight to China is propelled by anger, idealism, and a desire to find her true father, Z.G., an artist who may be falling out of favor with the Party. Joy goes with him deep into the countryside to the Green Dragon commune, where they take part in the energetic inception of Mao’s Great Leap Forward. But their collective dream of a communist paradise is soon overshadowed by hunger as the government’s bizarre agricultural mandates create a massive, relentless famine. Pearl, trapped in Shanghai as travel restrictions tighten, has little idea of the hardship Joy endures--until both women realize they must subvert a corrupt system in order to survive. The best estimates put the death toll from China’s Great Leap Forward at 45 million, and See is unflinching in her portrayal of this horrific episode. In clean prose, she gives us a resounding story of human resilience, independent spirits, and the power of the love between mothers and daughters. --Mari Malcolm

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. See revisits Shanghai Girls sisters Pearl and May in this surefire story of life in Communist China. Joy, the daughter Pearl has raised as her own in L.A., learns the truth about her parentage and flees to China to seek out her father and throw herself into the Communist cause, giving See ample opportunity to explore the People's Republic from an unlikely perspective as Joy reconnects with her artist father, Z.G. Li, and the two leave sophisticated Shanghai to go to the countryside, where Z.G., whose ironic view of politics is lost on naïve Joy, has been sent to teach art to the peasants. Joy, full of political vigor, is slow to pick up on the harsh realities of communal life in late 1950s China, but the truth sinks in as Mao's drive to turn China into a major agriculture and manufacturing power backfires. Pearl, meanwhile, leaves L.A. on a perhaps perilous quest to find Joy. As always, See creates an immersive atmosphere—her rural China is far from postcard pretty—but Joy's education is a stellar example of finding new life in a familiar setup, and See's many readers will be pleased to see the continued development of Pearl and May's relationship. Looks like another hit. (May)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (May 31, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140006712X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400067121
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (675 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #458,623 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

300 of 307 people found the following review helpful By Mary Lins TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"Dreams of Joy" by Lisa See continues the story of sisters Pearl and May, and of Joy, the daughter they share. The story began in "Shanghai Girls" which I very recently read, so the story was fresh in my mind. Pearl and May were once rich and pampered young women who modeled for an artist who painted calendars and ads in 1930s China. The story of how the sisters came to America in the 1930s was riveting and I wasn't ready for their tale to end, so I was happy to learn that Lisa See was already at work on a sequel and "Dreams of Joy" is it.

Told in alternating first-person narratives by Joy and Pearl, we first meet nineteen year old Joy, who recently discovered a huge secret about her past and decides to go to the People's Republic of China to find her birth father and to help Chairman Mao's Communist cause. Pearl is hot on her trail to China, returning to places once familiar now quite changed. The alternating points of view are an effective way to show how both idealistic, Joy, and cynical Pearl, adjust to their new environments. At first, Joys is quite enamored with the new Communist ideal of sharing and equality. Pearl, on the other hand, can easily see the cracks, fissures and hypocrisies in the new regime.

As Mao's "Great Leap Forward" begins to bring famine and death, the novel includes descriptions of suffering as horrible as any zombie movie I've ever seen. These passages are shattering and difficult to read. But the novel is also full of fascinating bits of arcane information, such as that the Maoists thought that bras were oppressive and confiscated them. Also, that returning Chinese scientists had to sign a confession admitting that the Chinese moon was larger than the American moon.

I expect this newest Lisa See novel will be quite popular. See has written several interesting and bestselling historical novels and certainly fans of "Shanghai Girls" will be avid to read this sequel. See does not disappoint.
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118 of 131 people found the following review helpful By Word Lover VINE VOICE on May 31, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Once again Lisa See takes readers to China, meticulously evoking a fascinating period of history. With an anthropologist's eye for details about food, dress, manners, art, architecture and even odors, this time she pulls back the bamboo curtain to reveal Red China. Who knew, for example, that Mao frowned on the too-Western convention of women wearing bras?

Dreams of Joy focuses on a triangle between a young woman named Joy; her mother, Pearl, and her aunt, May, with Joy and Pearl narrating in first-person voices. Pearl and May are characters well-drawn in Shanghai Girls, a previous See novel which covers 1937 to 1957 and moves from the girls' glittery life in Shanghai to a lesser existence in the Chinatown of Los Angeles, where they escape after the Japanese invade their country.

For readers of Shanghai Girls, Dreams of Joy offers closure. But if this is the first of See's books you're picking up, I doubt that you will captivated. While Pearl is a complex woman, Joy is vapid, and where See's past novels depict a China of grace alongside scenes of brutality, Communist China is rendered with all the dreariness it deserves. As a result, while Dreams of Joy may be historically accurate, it is relentlessly bleak. In addition, the plot is far-fetched. For reasons that are not convincing, Joy, a University of Chicago student, impulsively visits China to meet her biological father, an artist respected even in the new regime. From here on, a reader must suspend disbelief as events unfold built on coincidences described in prose that never reaches lift-off.

Even with its flaws, however, Dreams of Love is a powerful story about the bonds of country and motherhood.
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55 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Julia A. Andrews on May 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a powerfully written, multi-dimensional story about love. A mother's unbreakable love for a child. Patriotic love for one's country. The multitude of forms love can take in a family. The love of a man and woman.

Lisa See re-introduces us to Pearl and May, sisters in her previous novel,
...Read more ›
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