Thursday, July 21, 2011

Book Review: Dreams of Joy

Lisa See is the author of one of my favourite fiction books - Snow Flower and the Secret Fan - which was recently adapted into a film. I also was entranced by Peony in Love. Her stories transcend time but are rooted in history to bring alive themes of love between mother and daughter, love between best friends and love for one's country. A captivating story teller, Lisa See's books illuminate the Chinese culture in a way that makes me yearn to know more.

When I saw her latest book, Dreams of Joy, the sequel to Shanghai Girls at the book store, I snapped it up with great anticipation. The title and the image on the front led me to believe that this would be a joyful story. And while it is is another beautifully written novel that has great depth and poignancy, it could have used a warning label.

The book is set during a tragic period in China's history called the Great Leap Forward. During this time period of 1958-1961, the Communist Party of China instituted reforms intended to transform the country from an agrarian economy to a modern industrial society. In short, the reform initiative was a disaster and millions of people died in a horrific famine and by violence at the hands of party officials. The horror of living through this time is conveyed in great detail through the eyes of the main characters of the story, Joy and her mother Pearl.  I am not at all sorry that I read this book, but I did not realize what I was getting into.... If you are looking for a light summer read, this book is not for you.

Title: Dreams of Joy
Author: Lisa See
Publisher: Random House 2011
Category: Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 354

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