My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I really loved Lisa See’s other books so when this came out I was eager to give it a try. Sadly, the book did not meet my expectations.
China Dolls follows the story of three women– one of whom is NOT Chinese– during the depression, through the war and into to the post-war period.
For me, the characters never really gelled. In other Lisa See books, the characters really came alive. They pulsates with individual spirit and emotion. Even when I read Dreams of Pearl and found Pearl to be obnoxious, she seemed like a real person. In China Dolls, the women are just that dolls, rather lifeless characters following a plot without believable emotion.
If you want to avoid spoilers stop reading now!!
They go through so many things– dead husbands and children, love triangles, Japanese interment, out of wedlock children, marrying gay men, murder, jail! It’s more of a soap-opera than a meaningful picture of their lives. So much happens and so much is revealed that your head is spinning from minute to minute. And, all the drama the emotions and experiences of the characters are either over done or incredibly shallow!
See also doesn’t paint the picture of time and place like she has in her previous novels. In her past works, the location and time period are so well created they almost become a character. She allows the read to be immersed in the period. That did not happen here. What was pre-war San Fransisco Chinatown like? What about post war Miami?
All and I all I recommend skipping this book and reading Lisa See’s other much better novels.