I expected a huge turnout but when I arrived ten minutes early, not a seat was to be had. I overheard another woman tell someone that she had to arrive 45 minutes early to secure a seat.
Another thing I learned was that the store wouldn’t allow Lisa to sign books unless customers bought them at the store that evening. (I’d brought Peony in Love with me, but bought a copy of her newest, Dreams of Joy [Random House, 2011] for a friend’s birthday gift.)
After a very brief introduction, Lisa gave a humorous talk about her research for Dreams of Joy and shared some insider anecdotes.
For instance, Dreams of Joy is the sequel to her previous novel, Shanghai Girls. Lisa wanted to set the China portion of the book in Anhui Province, one of the poorest regions in China. Just as she was starting to think about traveling to Anhui, Amy Tan phoned her and asked if she’d like to meet her in China and stay in a 17th century villa in–of all places–Anhui Province. Tan is basing her next novel on the same village in Anhui.
Lisa See also spoke about The Great Leap Forward, the major historical event in Dreams of Joy. I don’t know about you, but I’m always both repulsed and fascinated by The Great Leap Forward. For that reason alone, Dreams of Joy should be an exciting book.
She didn’t read from her new novel, but that was okay. I enjoyed these vignettes and listening to the spectrum of questions from the audience. Some had no idea Lisa See was part Chinese. Others, like me, chimed in when she discussed Chinese characters, tones, and dialects.
This Sunday Dreams of Joy will debut as number one on the New York Times Bestseller List. Lisa’s breakthrough novel, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, has been made into a movie and will be released next month.
I’ve been reading her books since On Gold Mountain was published 15 years ago and am so thrilled she’s come so far.