Friday, February 4, 2011

Shanghai Girls - Discussion #1

Thanks for participating in our February Group Read, Shanghai Girls, by Lisa See. This discussion is through the end of the chapter called Soaring Through the Night Sky. There will be spoilers involved so you have been warned. Also note that I am reading the large print version so my page numbers may be different than the version you are reading.

Quick Recap
Pearl and May are two very spoiled Chinese sisters who have grown up in a very privileged setting in 1920-1930s Shanghai. The beginning of the book is set in 1937 and while we are reading the Japanese have attacked the Chinese. Pearl and May's world is turned upside down when they find out their weasel of a father has gambled away all of their money and they are to marry the sons of a rich Chinese American man to make up for it. Basically, they get married but then rebel and all hell breaks loose.

My thoughts
pg. 19 "We pay him, cross the street, step around a dead baby left on the sidewalk, find another rickshaw puller who has a license for the French Concession ..."

Uh what excuse me? DEAD BABY ON THE SIDEWALK????

furthermore... later on they discuss more dead babies being left on the sidewalk by the poor refuges.. I can't handle the complete lack of care/respect to newborns that they show. No wonder some kill daughters to try again for a son. ughh.

pg. 51 "Finally, its time for us to retire to our respective bridal chambers. My father whispers in my ear, "You know what you need to do. Once it's done, all this will be over."

Oh my good lord. What an asshole of a father!!!!!

Others Thoughts
Zelfgezien submitted the following to our discussion
What stuck me in this first part was the relation between Pearl and her parents. In the first chapter she describes how they’re placed around the square table in a way that both Baba and Ma are as close as possible to May, while a little before that she tells us that normally families have a round table “so they’ll always be whole and connected”. During these first hundred pages, details remind me of this weird relationship between parents and children in a negative way, until the raping scene.
I want to talk about this little part: “I reach out and grab her hand. How can I describe the look that passes between us? We’re a mother and a daughter being raped repeatedly, for all we know until we both die. I see in her eyes my birth, the endless tragedies of mother love, a total absence of hope, and than somewhere deep, deep in those liquid pools a fierceness I’ve never seen before.”
Personally, when I first read this little paragraph, I immediately forgave Ma for the faults and wrong decisions she made. For, in some way, I already knew Ma would die and Pearl would live, and that this was somehow there last chance to forgive each other. The problem is that this ‘forgiving Ma’ was just my direct response to the story, but it’s not literally said in the text that Pearl forgives her. So I was wondering what the other opinions are about this idea of forgiving & about this little paragraph.

I also think the family relationship is very weird and if Pearl can be a reliable narrator because it is obvious she feels slighted and that the world revolves around her younger sister. I think the mother did redeem herself there a bit toward the end but it was all very weird.

So, far I am liking the book but the descriptions of Shanghai are making me skim some paragraphs.

Question from me
1. What do you think of Pearl's "feelings" and her relationship with Z.G.?

Discussion Questions from BookBrowse
1. Pearl is a Dragon and May is a Sheep. Do you think the two sisters are true to their birth signs in their actions in Shanghai Girls? (I know it is just the beginning but what have you noticed so far? I think it will be interesting to keep these definitions in mind throughout the book)

What do you guys think? Love it? Hate it? Thoughts? Next Friday we will discuss Eating Wind and Tasting Leaves through the end of Scents of Home.