See, Lisa. China Dolls. New York: Random House, 2014. 9780812992892. 400 p.$27.00. Gr.10+.
Lisa See has again struck gold with her latest novel, China Dolls. Similar to her past novels, the story tells of the relationships among Asian women and comments on the racial and gender inequalities that occurred in American history. This novel takes place entirely in the United States, mainly San Francisco, before, during, and after WWII. The plot centers around three girls who meet and become dancers in Chinese nightclubs in San Francisco. Grace arrives in San Francisco after fleeing her small town in Ohio
to escape her abusive father. She meets Helen, a member of a wealthy family but also a young widow with a sad past. They team up with Ruby, a Japanese dancer who is masquerading as Chinese in order to get a job in a club. Their lives are forever intertwined as they fight for higher positions in nightclubs and the entertainment world, the affections of men, and the affection they feel for each other as WWII begins and their lives change. The story is told in alternating chapters in first person by each girl. Through this technique, the reader gains insight into the actions of each woman and the author creates characters that are multidimensional and engaging while evoking a feeling of sympathy for each girl that would have been noticeably absent had the story been told from one point of view. In keeping with See’s style, the book is extensively researched and brings to light a somewhat lost part of history while engaging the reader in a wonderful story of the relationships among Chinese and Japanese men and women in the 1940s. Give this title to students who enjoy historical fiction and want to read about the homefront during WWII.
Historical (WWII) Fiction Lindsey Myers, Peters Township High School
I had the pleasure of attending a presentation by Lisa See at the National Book Festival in August, and I just happened to be reading China Dolls during that time. I was delighted to hear more about Lisa See’s experience and research while preparing to write and subsequently writing this engaging novel. Her style is reminiscent of Amy Tan, who I absolutely love. I still remember buying all of Tan’s books on ebay when I was in high school, and proudly display them on my shelf to this day. I loved Tan’s descriptions of the interactions between mothers and daughters, and See’s similar method of illustrating and highlighting the relationships among female friends and family is equally enjoyable and enlightening. I was ecstatic when I discovered See, and look forward to each new title that she releases.
I did book talk this novel for our 11th grade Honors and Academic English classes. I will also be sharing this with our 10th grade Honors English students when they come in to select their historical fiction books in a few weeks. So many students have enjoyed Snow Flower and the Secret Fan in the past that I know this title will be enjoyed as well.