China Dolls by Lisa See is a historical fiction novel.The story begins in San Francisco just prior to World War Two where three young Asian-American women are attempting to pursue their dreams of careers in the entertainment business. The girls origins are quite different which provides contrast in their outlooks and motivations to succeed in their goals. Two of the girls are of Chinese descent and the other is Japanese pretending to be Chinese.
The novel follows the girl’s careers and personal lives through the war and into their old age. I am disappointed to report I did not enjoy this book. I came away from it feeling like See took a history timeline and using it as a guideline, padded her storyline with every historical occurrence possible. Although this is to be expected in historical fiction, I felt it was over the top in this book. Four instance, the Japanese-American girl is unmasked and sent to an internment camp for part of the war as are her parents and brother. At the same time, her two friends go on their way trying to “make it” in show business. One girl is a single mother married to a gay male dancer because the biological father of the child abandoned her and the other is taking any job she can get because it is rumored that she turned the Japanese girl in to the authorities resulting in her own reputation being sullied.
For me, the over abundance of history tie-ins distracted me from the characters and diminished my feelings for them. I welcome the input of any follower who has read this novel because I am interested in hearing your perception of it. I am about to read Lisa See’s most recent novel and have high hopes it will be more enjoyable.