Dreams of Joy

In 2009's bestselling book Shanghai Girls Lisa See told the story of two sisters - Pearl and May - and their journey from Shanghai, China in the 1930's to Hollywood, California in the 1950's. Following the dramatic and emotional not-quite-conclusion of that work, See picks up the story in another beautifully-written and phenomenal book, Dreams of Joy.

The title of this book has a bit of a dual meaning in that the characters from book one are desperately seeking a happy, joy-filled ending; and also, the central heroine of this story is Joy - the daughter from Shanghai Girls - who ventures out on the reverse trip of her mother and aunt, traveling from California back to China. Joy is seeking both her birth father, the artist Z.G. Li, and what she views as an idealist society in Chairman Mao's communist republic, but she soon learns that ideals and reality rarely line up. Pearl follows her daughter, seeking to bring Joy back home, and both women face questions of the true meanings of home and family.

As with many of her previous novels, Lisa See's signature style of emotionally charged character drama is alive in this book. The landscape and daily details are vividly described; and contrasting themes of love and loss intertwine with a story about the turbulent political climate of China in the late 1950's and early 60's. I really enjoyed how this book answered the questions I was left with after Shanghai Girls. At times I found Joy's rebellious spirit to be a frustrating character trait, but she definitely grew throughout the story. I appreciated that she was a unique individual with a perspective similar to Pearl's and May's, yet distinctly her own. Overall, See has created yet another magnificent and captivating work!

 An advance review copy of this work was provided by LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program.  This review represents my honest and unbiased opinions.  Dreams of Joy by Lisa See is on sale tomorrow May 31, 2011.

6 Response to "Dreams of Joy"

  1. lisa :) says:
    May 30, 2011 at 3:24 PM

    Having some blogger comment issues thus the change in comment format. Special thanks to Stephanie at Misfit Salon for alerting me about the problem. Hope to be back to embedded comments soon!

  2. Evie says:
    June 1, 2011 at 12:05 AM

    Fantastic review :) I love Lisa See's books, she has a great way with words. I totally adored her Snowflower and the Secret Fan.
    This one I haven't read yet, but it's on my TBR ;)

    Thanks for stopping by my blog! :)

  3. Jen (@ Jens Book Closet) says:
    June 1, 2011 at 11:48 AM

    I've heard of the first in the series and I actually saw it at Costco the other day and was tempted to pick it up. However, I haven't heard if the first was worth the read. It sounds like it is and that I should possibly pick it up. ??

    In the Closet With a Bibliophile

  4. lisa :) says:
    June 1, 2011 at 12:53 PM

    Evie - Snow Flower was one of my favorite Lisa See works too!

    Jen - Both books are really well done! Each has moments that are really emotional and heart-wrenching but they're also really great stories.

    I think it's probably best to read Shanghai Girls first, but this one picks up right where that one leaves off, so it's almost as though the two novels are one larger story!

  5. Bailey says:
    June 4, 2011 at 12:50 AM

    I've only read Snow Flower of all of Lisa See's books... I need to pick another one of hers up again because I enjoyed it and always see good reviews! Thanks for the review!

  6. Brasil says:
    February 13, 2012 at 1:06 AM

    In "Dreams of Joy", See beautifully rounds the circle she began in "Shanghai Girls." In fact, one can argue that you can't really understand "Shanghai Girls" completely on a first reading because the sequel brings a two dimensional perspective to its predecessor.

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