Originally Published: September 10, 2015 8:41 p.m.
Book Review: "China Dolls" (Random House) by Lisa See
New York Times bestselling author Lisa See has produced yet another gripping novel of ambition, love and friendship, betrayal and revenge, sure to hold readers' attention to the very last word.
As with her other eight novels, See's characters are portrayed with exquisite detail in both outer and inner worlds. Yet even as well as readers come to know the characters, they will still find unexpected surprises. The novel takes the characters from 1938, when the world still seemed whole and a world fair is about to open on Treasure Island, through the trying years of World War II, and follows them into the changed world beyond.
Three women, the talented Grace, the spunky and irresistible Ruby, and the well-heeled and more sensible Helen, meet while trying out as dancers at the exclusive and glamorous Forbidden City nightclub. Despite their different backgrounds, they enter into a deeply bonded friendship. Their friendship will not be an easy one to maintain as they fight for position in the showbiz world, for the love of men, and for each other, all while the world around them gets turned on its head and the dreams they chase disintegrate and re-form in front of them. Each character has her own dark dimensions that must be dealt with. It is impossible not to get caught up in the stories, the struggles of the characters, their losses and gains as they become who they become.
Many things can be said about this compelling book. The San Francisco Chronicle said it "explores burning questions about the possibilities of friendship, the profound effects of betrayal ... these Asian artists were true pioneers, breaking ground, chasing vast dreams ..." O: The Oprah Magazine calls it "A spellbinding portrait of a time burning with opportunity and mystery."
The best thing to do is to read it for yourself, perhaps after coming to see Lisa See and hear her read and talk about her book at the Yavapai College Community Room at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 18.
- Reviewed by Susan Lang, Peregrine Book Company event coordinator