By Leah Greenblatt
June 16, 2014 at 04:00 AM EDT

China Dolls

B-
type
  • Book
Genre

Sex, showgirls, wartime intrigue: The latest from best-selling novelist See (Snow Flower and the Secret Fan) has what sounds like a can’t-miss premise, and a grounding in real history: Her story of three Asian-American dancers in pre-WWII San Francisco is based partly on research and interviews with actual ”no-no girls.” Alas, over 300-plus pages, the Dolls remain just that — pretty figurines whose inner lives never quite resonate. Though their costumes sparkle, See’s prose rarely does, and the powerful things the book wants to say about female friendship, ambition, and the brutal racism of the era get blunted in the banality of the telling. B-

China Dolls

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