China Dolls – by Lisa See – independent book review – Historical Fiction (China)

While I’m generally a fan of the author, Lisa See, this is not one of my favorites. Awarded three stars on Goodreads.

chinadollsCHINA DOLLS follows the story of three young “Chinese” women who become friends, beginning in 1938 until 1988. The ups and downs of their show business careers provide one theme of the book and I learned a lot about Chinese nightclubs, especially those in San Francisco before and during World War II. To me, however, this was not that interesting.

What did fascinate me was the descriptions of how Asian Americans were treated during World War II.

• How most Asians were lumped together, regardless of nationality, and subjected to discrimination.

• What it was like for American citizens of Japanese descent to be yanked out of their lives and sent to internment camps.

• And how ruthlessly the government persecuted innocent, but suspected Japanese sympathizers. (Reminiscent of post 9/11 treatment of Muslims)

Lisa See

As for why I only gave this 3 stars — it’s because of the portrayal of the friendship among the three women. Over the decades, despite what is described as a close and intense friendship, these women subject each other to petty jealousies, humiliations, lies, and manipulations. The friendship simply didn’t ring true to me given these deceitful behaviors. I personally disliked Lisa See’s unflattering portrait of friendship among women, which seemed to foster stereotypes of women as self-absorbed, spiteful, and selfish. And that simply hasn’t been my experience with women friends.

Read more about the author, Lisa See.
You may also be interested in reading my review of another book by Lisa See: