Thursday, July 18, 2013

Audiobook: Dreams of Joy by Lisa See

Read by Janet Song

Synopsis: Reeling from newly uncovered family secrets, and anger at her mother and aunt for keeping them from her, Joy runs away to Shanghai in early 1957 to find her birth father—the artist Z.G. Li, with whom both May and Pearl were once in love. Dazzled by him, and blinded by idealism and defiance, Joy throws herself into the New Society of Red China, heedless of the dangers in the communist regime.

Devastated by Joy’s flight and terrified for her safety, Pearl is determined to save her daughter, no matter the personal cost. From the crowded city to remote villages, Pearl confronts old demons and almost insurmountable challenges as she follows Joy, hoping for reconciliation. Yet even as Joy’s and Pearl’s separate journeys converge, one of the most tragic episodes in China’s history threatens their very lives.

My thoughts: This was the sequel to Lisa See's Shanghai Girls, which I absolutely loved. It took me a while to listen to this book because I could not get a hold of it, but luckily I was still able to remember much of the story. Dreams of Joy continued the story of the two sisters, Pearl and May, as well as their shared daughter Joy. The book concentrated on Joy's journey of self-discovery and learned what a mother's love really meant.

In this story, Pearl and Joy were the main characters. May does not show up but we got a sense of her character through her letters. I really loved listening to Pearl's side of the story. There was a lot of love and bravery on her part. We got to learn more of her fears and how she slowly came to overcome them. My least favorite was Joy's side of the story the first half of the book. She was self-observed and very ungrateful. I did understand why she felt the way she felt at the beginning, but I could not stand how she treated Pearl and could not stand her constant immaturity. There were many times that I was annoyed by Joy's character that I wanted to stop listening to the story. Fortunately, her character grew towards the end that she redeemed herself.

Though this book concentrated about sisters and mother-daughter relationships, it also gave a lot of information about China's history during the early to mid 1900s. It was very heartbreaking to hear what happened in China after the wonderful years of Shanghai being known as the Paris of China. I came to learn about Chairman Mao's Communist cause and how his ruling had a negative affect on the people. I was sickened on the way the people were treated, especially those who lived in the country side. I was also shocked to learn that people needed permission papers to travel outside of their city/town. It was very devastating yet enriching to learn this part of history.

My thoughts on the performance: Janet Song did a good job again with this book. I loved her in the first book and I still enjoyed her with this one. My only complaint was that it was confusing sometimes to know who was speaking in the story, Pearl or Joy. Janet's voice did not changed much when it swapped point-of-view. Other than that, Janet Song put a lot of emotion in her reading that made the tragedies of China very vivid.

At first I was not too impressed with this book because of Joy's character, but as the story progressed, I fell in love with it. I found myself connected to the characters that I became emotional for them. I rate this audiobook:

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