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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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VINE VOICEon 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. Readers will especially enjoy flashbacks to Shanghai's glory days, where "banquets came with French friends sprinkled with fine white sugar." The occasional Chinese proverb is also a treat: "An inch of gold won't buy an inch of time." Time being precious, however, I can recommend this book only if you are a reader of See's previous work.
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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, Shanghai Girls: A Novel]. I was delighted to see their often heartbreaking story continue.

****************Spoilers***************
19 year old Joy sets out to China, where the newly minted Mao/Communist philosophy is just taking hold. During her one year at college, Joy naively becomes a vocal defender of Mao's "New China", joining a group that puts her family in the cross hairs of the FBI and INS. This leads to personal tragedy at home in Los Angeles' Chinatown. Long hidden secrets are revealed leaving Joy feeling betrayed and furious with Pearl, the sister who raised and loved her as her own daughter, and May, her birth mother, who pretended to be Joy's aunt.

Pearl, disregarding her own safety, tracks Joy to Shanghai. After all, Pearl was born in the year of the Dragon, and she will not rest until her daughter is back in the US. This is no easy feat. The ever-changing Communist government keeps a close eye on people's movements and motives. Joy digs in her heels, becomes a propaganda spouting communal peasant in a remote Chinese countryside village much to her recently discovered biological father's and Pearl's dismay. Joy cannot 'see the forest for the trees'.

Joy's Dragon Mother will go to the ends of the earth to ensure her safekeeping even after Joy impetuously marries an illiterate, spiteful village boy. The obstacles are enormous, the people untrustworthy, and the daily life vile. Mao and his minions push his people to their limits, leaving them starving to death in the streets of Shanghai and in the barren fields of the countryside.

Ms. See successfully contrasts Pearl's realism with Joy's idealism all the while making the reader identify with both women. The storyline is strong with characters that are completely 3D. The pacing was perfection. I was engaged from the first to last page. Easily a stand alone novel, I relished it even more after reading "Shanghai Girls". Lisa See's research into her subjects' lives, cultural and religious beliefs combined with her impeccable knowledge of Chinese history make this a treat to savor.

I also highly recommend Ms. See's other fiction and non-fiction for those interested in Chinese culture and customs. My personal favorites are: [[ASIN:0812980352 Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A Novel
;Peony in Love: A Novel;Shanghai Girls: A Novel and On Gold Mountain: The One-Hundred-Year Odyssey of My Chinese-American Family.

Enjoy the read!
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Prior to reading this book, I had read two other books by Lisa See, namely "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" and "Shanghai Girls". I loved both those books and was anxious to read this new one. I loved this book too and think that this author just keeps getting better and better. I am now a dedicated fan and will look forward to all her future books.

This new novel is a sequel to "Shanghai Girls" which is the story of two Chinese sisters who escaped to America after they were horribly treated by the Japanese at the beginning of World War 2. Their lives in California were not necessarily happy ones, but they survived and learned to love their adopted country, all the time keeping a deep secret about the birth of one of the women's daughters.

"Dreams of Joy" opens twenty years later, in the year 1957. Joy, the baby who has now grown to womanhood is a college student and enamored with the propaganda coming from China about the cultural revolution. With patriotic fervor she travels to China in search of her artist father who is an active participant in the "new" China. Her mother, Pearl, is devastated and follows her daughter to China. What follows next is a portrait of what was going on in China at the time. The story is told in alternating chapters in the voices of the mother and the daughter.

At first Joy is swept up in the changes happening in China. Her experiences in the countryside convince her that the new government is on the right track. There is plenty of food and lots of enthusiasm. She also falls in love with a young man who lives with his parents as well as ten brothers and sisters in a small shack. In the meantime, Pearl also travels to China looking for her daughter. She is cynical of all the changes but stays in China in order to be close to her daughter.

I learned more about China and "The Great Leap Forward" than I ever knew, with all the horrific details told with the ultimate skill of this fine writer. I absolutely loved this book and give it my highest recommendation and look forward to another sequel which I understand is forthcoming.
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VINE VOICEon May 10, 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I have loved Lisa See's book since Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. Then came Shanghai Girls. What a wonderful story about 2 sisters --

Now we have Dreams of Joy to continue the story. I thought it does well enough to stand on its own, but it is helpful to have read Shanghai Girls first to get a little background. The story narrates between Pearl and Joy, which I thought was very enjoyable.

Dreams of Joy starts off with Joy, being May's daughter but Pearl, May's sister raising her her whole life. Joy overhears a conversation between the sisters, finds out May is really her mother. She has grand ideas of returning to her family's homeland of China and helping with the revolution. Also she would like to find her real dad, Z.G. When she finds him and they go to the countryside for what Joy thinks as he is teaching painting to the peasants, really he is being banished.

In the countryside of Green Dragon, Joy thinks she has found it all. Love and happiness, helping her country as she is told. However she has no idea that Pearl is in the country trying to find her. When she finally finds her back in Shanghai, Joy is upset and still angry, and in love, she thinks anyway.

Pearl, Joy and Z.G. make a trip back to the countryside, Joy thinks her happiness will be there with Tao. After they are married though, Joy finds out a completely different side of Tao. She also finds out that the country she has been supporting maybe isn't everything they promised, making them work non-stop and not feeding them in return. The Great Leap Forward may not be so great. Will Joy be able to make it out?

This book was hearbreaking at times but a wonderful book continued about 2 sisters love for each other, even in the hard times. Also it has a bit of a love story and the best part is our love for our children, whether they be biologically or not! Enjoy, Lisa See is a master storyteller!
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VINE VOICEon May 9, 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This novel is the sequel to Shanghai Girls, and while it would be beneficial to have read the first one, it is not necessary to do so. The book stands on its own. If you enjoy historical fiction this is a well-written tale set in China during the late 1950s and early 1960s during a specific period of Mao's communist leadership called "The Great Leap Forward." I found aspects of the book absolutely fascinating. Lisa See does a good job of alternating the voices of the mother (Pearl) and her daughter (Joy) as they bring to life the hardships that were endured. She does a fine balance of bringing to light the atrocities that occurred without making the book completely depressing. She shows how love and perseverance can triumph in the midst of difficulty.

Absolutely would recommend this book.
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on May 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
"Dreams of Joy" is a wonderful book, one that takes you back into mid 20th century China. It takes place during the tumultuous reign of Mao Zedong, a time period I'm really interested in as a history major in college. Lisa See has constantly been a go-to author for me. "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" was probably one of the best books of historical fiction that I've ever read, and "Dreams of Joy" is no less. I'm not going to give you a summary of the book since others have already done such a good job of it.

This book is a heart-wrenching look at all of the different types of love there is: patriotism, family love, and, of course, romantic love. The strongest type of love seen in this story is family love, as Pearl is resolved to save Joy in a period of such difficulties. I was a bit worried when I picked up this book that the pacing would be too slow, as it has been with so many of the books I've been reading lately, but no worries on that note! I kept turning the pages, wanting to know what would happen next to Joy (a rash, impetuous girl) and Pearl. The characters themselves are 3-dimensional and well-written, and never once did I question the motives of the characters. I understood why Joy was mad at Pearl and May, and I understood her motivation for supporting the "New China." I did become somewhat annoyed with the rash Joy at times, but then I realized that we're all humans and we all make mistakes.

Overall, this was an amazing book and I definitely recommend it!
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VINE VOICEon May 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Every generation wants independence and to forge a new and separate life from the mothers who seem to over protect them. Sometimes it takes tragedy, extreme hardship and even death before we see that we become our mothers and that is not always a bad thing.

This story begins with "Shanghai Girls" and will take on a greater depth of meaning if you read that book first. It can stand alone though, because Ms. Lisa See is a brilliant author.

I read her books because of the cultural connections she brings to her stories. Ms. See is a Chinese-American and had done extensive travel and research when working on her projects. This is a story of love, heart break, patriotism, roots, longings and unbelievable horror. The details are hard to read and harder to absorb, but that's what makes this novel feel so real. Where else would you learn that the shelters were so cold that the farmers had to sleep on top of their work clothes so they would be a little warmer in the morning. Women getting the monthly visit from the Little Red Sister would have to wrap sand in cloth and wedge it between their legs, because sanitary products were unheard of. During The Great Leap Forward, Chairman Mao had the starving farmers put their harvests piled up on the roadways so that people passing through would think there was so much food that the farmers could feed the world.

Every chapter draws you in further and deeper into a society which was both brave and tragic. Buy both books, "Shanghai Girls" and "Dreams of Joy", and then call your mothers and grandmothers and mother-in-laws and thank them for all they sacrifice for you.
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VINE VOICEon May 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Set in the late 1950s, "Dreams of Joy" is the story of young Joy Louie who leaves her comfortable home in Los Angeles' Chinatown for the People's Republic of China to find both her birth father and what she thinks will be a better way of life. Her association with a communist group at the University of Chicago has led her to believe that it isn't the evil portrayed by the United States Government.

Since her birth father is a well-known artist in Shanghai, it is fairly easy for her to find him in spite of government restrictions. After his initial shock of discovering he even has a daughter, he seems happy to know her. She travels with him to the village of Green Dragon where she joins the commune and falls in love with a young peasant farmer.

In 1958, Mao announced the "Great Leap Forward," an attempt to increase agricultural and industrial production. However, three years of floods and bad harvest due to poor farming methods, severely damaged levels of production. The famine that occurred reportedly resulted in 4.5 million fatalities. The author masterfully transports us to that village and shows us in startling detail the horrors that result from this famine. Her attention to detail is wonderful and, while the book isn't a page-turner in the sense of a thriller, I was spellbound by the history of a period in China that has always fascinated me.

Although "Dreams of Joy" is the sequel to "Shanghai Girls," which I have never read, I found it stands alone quite well. Since I am always intrigued by the history of China, I will certainly go back and read the prequel, as well as Ms. See's earlier books. She is a skilful author with the ability to transfer the reader to the exotic country she writes about.
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VINE VOICEon June 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Oh how I love Lisa See....her books hold a very special place in my heart. "Dreams of Joy" is a sequel to "Shanghai Girls" and I definitely think that the reader will benefit greatly by reading "Shanghai Girls" first. The author takes such care to draw her characters so deftly and works in so many layers of history that it would be a shame to miss it."Dreams" follows Joy, the daughter in "Shanghai" on her journey from Los Angeles' Chinatown to Communist China in 1957. She is anxious to participate in Mao Tse-tung's "Great Leap Forward"...being a 19 year old enthusiastic college student...her sheltered and over-parented childhood has hardly prepared her for the new world she encounters upon meeting her "real" father,Z.G. and embarking on an artists journey with him. The reader is swept away to "Green Dragon Village" and it is fascinating to learn about the collective farming and communal way of life that is taking over the region. We learn of the 4 types of Chinese Art...progressive farming techniques and Mao's theory that the peasents should have all of the babies that they can...beacause "More stomachs to feed mean more hands to work". We follow Joy's long-suffering mother,Pearl, as she searches the streets of the place of her birth when she returns to China to try to find her beloved Joy."Motherlove" is the theme here...Pearl telling us that "mothers suffer,children do what they want." Love is pervasive...old and new...marriages...treasured family friends...and creative expression abound. Things turn extraordinarily dark here...it is difficult to read in some sections. Lisa See tells us about "The Little Red Sister" (feminine hygiene) "The Husband Wife Thing" (sex) and "Swap Baby/Eat Food"....captivating reading.I am such a devoted fan of all of Lisa's books that I hesitate to criticize her at all but find myself in every one of her beautiful books wishing just a little that she would not give in to her tendency to indulge in sudsy relationship drama that lends a little "chic lit" or even a "young adult" tinge to some of her writing. For the most part I love her characters...but she is doing spectacular research for these books. She travels to these remote spots and is meticulous about the history involved in these stories. I feel she minimizes her work just a little by adding some of the overwrought dialogue and unlikely plot twists. These books should be truly literary....and I fear that what I have pointed out along with some unsophisticated cover art undercuts them just a little bit. An ambiguous genre comes to mind. Having said this...I can't wait for the next one...and for the big movie premier this summer of the charming "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan". Loved this one...just expressing a little concerned "motherlove" !!!
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