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Monday, July 11, 2011

Dreams of Joy

Dreams of Joy
Lisa See
Random House, 2011

This sequel to Shanghai Girls takes up the story of Joy, confused daughter of Pearl, who has discovered a family secret. Devastated by her discovery, Joy impulsively runs to China to search for her real father, Z.G. Enamored by Chinese Communism, Joy is ready to join the Revolution and renounce her American citizenship. Meanwhile, Pearl follows her to China, willing to do anything to find her and convince her to come home again.

When Joy finds her father, she is disappointed at his lack of interest in her. Determined to impress him and also fulfill her own her goal, she joins him when he visits a commune in the country to teach art to the citizens there. Joy has to learn to be a peasant or she risks condemnation by the others, but she adjusts to the different way of life – and falls in love with a young man. Pearl finds herself in a different situation when she arrives in Shanghai. In order to stay in the country, she must follow a strict set of rules, find a job, and renounce her western ways. Both Pearl and Joy eventually find each other only to be forced to separate again as each must go her own path to a dangerous and unpredictable future.

This glimpse into communist China during the late fifties and early sixties provides a fascinating backdrop to a touching story of love, redemption and forgiveness. The detailed descriptions vividly illustrate the confusion and despair that existed during that time as the bureaucratic corruption and ridiculous direction from the leaders take the country on a downward spiral. It may sound trite and corny, but history does come alive in this book. I didn’t know much about the Mao years in China, but reading this book motivated me to do my own research into this subject. Even more importantly for us novel readers, I felt like I was in Shanghai or Green Dragon Village with Pearl and Joy, struggling as they struggled, suffering as they suffered – at least as much as one can do while reading about it. I highly recommend this book, but be sure to read them in order!


Other novels by this author:
The Interior (1999)
Dragon Bones (2003)
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (2005)
Peony in Love (2007)
Flower Net (2008)
Shanghai Girls (2009)

Other books you may enjoy:

Big Breasts and Wide Hips by Yan Mo (2004)
Jintong, his mother, and his eight sisters struggle to survive through the major crises of twentieth century China, which include civil war, invasion by the Japanese, the Cultural Revolution, and communist rule in the new China.

White Ghost Girls by Alice Greenway (2006)
The children of a war-photographer father and beautiful but remote mother, Frankie and Kate, two American sisters, grow up in Hong Kong during the turmoil of the Maoist revolution of the late 1960s.

Wild Ginger by Anchee Min (2002)
A story of desire during the time of the Cultural Revolution follows Wild Ginger, who becomes a national model for Maoism, which prohibits romantic love, forcing her to make a difficult decision when she falls in love with a young man.


  1. I read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan for my book club. It wasn't a book I would normally have chosen to read, but I did find it interesting. It's good to know that I'd have to read the prequel to this current novel first. Thanks.

  2. This book was even better than the last! I really enjoyed the wonderful descriptions of emotions in the characters. I felt like I was truly transported to the time and place. Definitely felt all the suffering, happiness, and love the characters were feeling. I was moved and feel like I learned a bit about history and chinese culture.