I majored in history in college. I love that fiction can incorporate a lot of history and still be an entertaining and informative book. Dreams of Joy by Lisa See fulfilled that for me.
This novel is the sequel to Shanghai Girls, which I read earlier this year, and failed to review. My bad. I liked Shanghai Girls, but I loved Dreams of Joy. You don’t necessarily need to read the first to read the second, but it might help with highlighting the back story.
The book is told between two women. Joy is a nineteen year-old idealist who after finding out her mother’s secret has fled to China to find her father and join in the Communist rebuild of China called the Great Leap Forward. Pearl is Joy’s mother returning to China after leaving twenty years before in an arranged marriage. What Pearl finds is not the glorious Shanghai she left behind, but a city with several restrictions, and little diversity. She needs to find Joy and get her home to Los Angeles, but not before figuring out her own past, her sister’s mistakes, her place in the New China.
See aptly writes in the voice of a nineteen year-old girl with conviction. Joy is headstrong and must prove herself right to everyone, even herself, at times. The book moves between city and village life in China during the Great Leap Forward. Set from 1959 to 1962, the reader truly gets a feeling of what the Chinese dealt with. It started off well, but quickly became a disaster.
I love how this book portrays the love between a mother and daughter even in the harshest and most strained circumstances. It was such a good book. I couldn’t put it down.
I give it a 5 out of 5.