Saturday, July 30, 2011

Dreams of Joy; Lisa See

Author:  Lisa See
Publication Year: 2011
Publisher: Random House
Edition: audio book and ARC
Reader: Janet Song (very good)
Source: audio-Library/arc-publisher
Date Completed: 7/26/2011 
Setting: Shanghai, China and US
Rating: 4.5/5
Recommend: yes


Dreams of Joy is a story that begins where the author's previous novel, Shanghai Girls left off. The former covered the period of time from 1937-1957.  In this novel, it's 1957 and the author introduces sisters Pearl and May once again.  Joy is a student at the University of Chicago, who has learned the truth about her mother and her aunt.  Excited by all of the propaganda she has heard about changes in China, under Chairman Mao's leadership, she decides to leave school for Shanghai to help with the revolution and search of her real father, a famous artist called Z.G.

When Pearl learns what Joy has done, she heads to Shanghai days later in hopes of bringing Joy home.  However, with all the red tape, getting connected with Joy initially proves difficult, as she had already connected with Z.G, and the two had headed to a commune where Z.G was sent by the government to teach painting to peasants. The commune, Green Dragon Village was located  far out in the country. At first Joy is thrilled with being there and doing what she feels is making a difference. She even meets a young man named Tao, a peasant farmer, who she ends up marrying.  The marriage turns out to be a huge mistake.

It isn't long before the situation in China is terrible.  People were told to have more children so that there would be more people to help in the fields. What resulted were people starving, people forced into slavery, and even instances of cannibalism. Despite the disasters of all of the programs people were forced to implement,  they were required to paint pictures portraying the successes of the new programs.
 
Without giving away too many details, about what else happens, I'll just say that despite all of the bleakness in this novel, I was happy with the ending, although it seemed somewhat rushed. Pearl's love for Joy shined through again and again.

All of the characters were well developed, and although I liked Joy, I found her incredibly naive, and foolish. For example, she willingly surrendered her passport when she entered the country. The story is told from alternating viewpoints of Joy and Pearl. I loved learning about what China was like during that period of time, and although this is a work of fiction, I suspect that the author's descriptions were accurate for that period of time.  I liked this novel a lot, and think that reading Shanghai Girls first, is a plus.

26 comments:

  1. I have Shanghai Girls on my list and based on your review I will look forward to reading this one too.

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  2. I really liked this book a tremendous amount! As a former history teacher I found the China stuff very accurate and interesting and I felt like the author wove it into the story well. So glad you liked it!

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  3. I have yet to read Shanghai Girls, but all the reviews I've seen so far of this book have been really positive.

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  4. Shanghia Girls is my chosen in-flight read for my honeymoon and I can't wait to start it. I didn't even know there was a sequel ...

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  5. Will it be a problem if I read this one without reading Shanghai Girls? Thanks for the review Diane.

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  6. That is a historical period I would love to know more about so maybe I'll pick it up. Do I have to read the other book first to understand it?

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  7. I'm glad you liked it, Diane. It's on my shelf and I hope to read it in the next few months.

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  8. I have both of these books and need to read them soon. I feel like I've been a little behind since I never read the first one, but soon will rectify all that! Great review! You have me looking forward to both of them!

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  9. Good endings are a really good thing, and it sounds like a good read!

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  10. I have this but keep resisting it for some reason, even though I loved Shanghai Girls. I think it's because you're not the only one who complained about Joy! LOL

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  11. I really enjoyed this book, too and was thrilled that Lisa See had written a sequel to Shanghai Girls. It's horrendous what happened in China under Mao and I thought Lisa See did a wonderful job of telling us about it without seeming like she was standing on a soapbox or preaching.

    I would have liked to hear from ZG more especially since he never left China and put values and morals aside to become a top artist.

    Great review, Diane :o)

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  12. I've wanted to read something by Lisa See for some time - thanks for a review which encouraged me to finally find Shanghai Girls.

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  13. I think you would appreciate Dreams of Joy more if you read Shanghai Girls first, but I think most would still enjoy this book if they chose not to read the 1st book. JMO

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  14. I've so got to get a copy of this one. Usually I read anything she writes the minute it comes out, but with gas prices so high and the distance, plus my mounting review stack, I haven't been to my library in months!!

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  15. I'm kind of embarrassed to admit that I've never read See's work. I want to read them all, but think I'll start with Shanghai Girls.

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  16. I have yet to read Shanghai Girls but I supposed I'll have to read this once I finally get around to reading the first one.

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  17. Sheila, Yes, the narrator of the audio is very good.

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  18. Guess I'd better hurry up and read Shanghai Girls...

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  19. I don't know what it is but I can't get into See's writing. I gave up on Shanghai Girls for that reason.

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  20. I have this book but think I better do a quick skim of Shanghai Girls again before I read it. I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it.

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  21. I loved Peony and Secret Fan, but Shanghai Girls didn't quite work for me. So I have no plans to read this one. However, you do make it sound like a good read. :-D

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  22. Shanghai Girls is on my TBR list and it's good to know there's a follow-up. Thanks!

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  23. I'm glad to see you really enjoyed it. I can't wait to read it!

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  24. I'm so happy to see that you loved this! I loved SG and was elated when I won a copy of this from LibraryThing. Unfortunately, I never received it!!! :(

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  25. I think this same narrator read Snow Flower too, and I really loved her narration. I'm glad to see you loved this one, so I'm going to check it on audio!

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  26. I loved everything by Lisa See. I need to read Shanghai Girls as well so I can jump on this one!

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