Lisa See does a fantastic job with this sequel to Shanghai Girls. Unfortunately I read Shanghai Girls so long ago, I could not remember all the details from the first book. Regardless, this is a fascinating read, drawing on life in communist China during Mao’s Great Leap Forward. The book is horrifying, yet captivating. By the end I was teary eyed.I really enjoy reading historical fiction. Sadly my formative education was sub-standard. I would imagine many of you will think this is a strange comment from a girl who went to a public school with a strong reputation. For most of my friends Pali provided an excellent education. However, unlike my honor level friends, I was in mostly average classes due to my dyslexia diagnosis. Average classes were a joke. Teachers were locked in closets while classmates ran amuck. In one class a student stabbed another classmate with a pencil, all while the teacher sat at his desk doing the LA Times crossword puzzle. While my friends learned of the Vietnam War, I learned how not to cause waves with my fellow average level classmates. Now, I often find myself gravitating towards the historical fiction genre to expand my knowledge base of what I should have learned in school. Dreams of Joy provided me with history I had not known.
See is an impeccable researcher, making her books incredibly informative. I particularly enjoyed that See shares her personal journey of writing this book with wonderful stories and photos from her trip to China in the Reader's Guide. See is compulsively readable. I highly recommend all her books, although I still need to read On Gold Mountain: The 100 Year Odyssey of My Chinese-American Family.