CHINA DOLLS, BY LISA SEE
Nobody recommended this one to me, I just read the synopsis and thought it was interesting. Plus, I liked the cover.
To be honest, this is not the kind of book I'd usually enjoy reading. It had its good parts, but most of the time I found myself rolling my eyes at the story.
Synopsis: The book follows the lives of three Oriental girls right before and during World War II. They dream of, and succeed, in living as professional dancers, while dealing with prejudice and the hardships the times and their situations brought.
Overall enjoyment: Like I said, it had some good parts, but most of the time I had to force myself to keep reading. There wasn't a single, definitive problem with it, it was a combination of the writing style, the characters, the story... The good parts were the historical details. This has to be said: her research was clearly extensive and well made.
Plot: The basic premise would be interesting enough for me. But the development of the story depends too much on everybody being extremely gullible and overlooking things (hence the eye-rolling). And when I read the back cover, I thought this was going to be a story about female friendship, about girls helping each other out, and it's really not. Instead, they're jealous of each other, compete all the time and constantly stab each other on the back. And it's portrayed as "the classical relationship between women". *eye-roll*
Characters: Grace is a sweet, Chinese-descendant girl who had never had contact with the Chinese community. She's unbelievably gullible and will believe anything anybody tells her. She's sweet and kind to the extreme, and believes in true love religiously. Ruby is a Japanese girl pretending to be Chinese. She's ambitious and ruthless. She's a slut and will fuck anyone if that will give her an advantage. Helen is a Chinese girl who has always lived very sheltered in the community. She has a horrible trauma in her past, which makes her vulnerable, but, at the same time, dangerous. Like the rest of the book, these characters have some nice moments, but usually they're very artificial and contrite.
World/setting: This was done very well, the book does a nice job in transporting the reader to America in the 40s and 50s. Sometimes it's a little weird, though. She tries to add color but she goes too far, putting way too many or too detailed references into someone's speech.
Writing style: Very contrite and does not feel natural. Sometimes it's unbearably formal, at others it's shockingly colloquial. The suspense is not very well done, and you can see the "surprises" coming from miles away.
Representation: Almost all the characters are Asian, and she does a good job of describing the struggle they would have to go through. There is even a gay man.
Political correctness: As far as the Asian community goes, it's very nice. She discusses not only the prejudice they would face, but misogyny and the prejudice inside the community against other races and people in different social stances. On the other hand, the casual misogyny all over the book is overbearing. Not only in the relationship between the women, but with several instances of slut-shaming and victim-blaming. Plus, all the women do everything because of men; the only things they do because they want are portrayed as selfish, petty and absurd.
Up next: The Killer Wore Leather, by Laura Antoniou