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All the Flowers in Shanghai: A Novel Paperback – Deckle Edge, December 20, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Original edition (December 20, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062081608
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062081605
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,233,156 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Jepson...evokes time and place well as he describes the life of privilege that Feng comes to take for granted only to have her life veer dramatically and be overtaken by the Great Leap Forward.” (Booklist)

“[Jepson] does a solid job of voicing a female character.” (Library Journal)

“Strong on detail and emotional intensity.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“[A] riveting storyline.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Poignant and elegantly written.” (Romantic Times)

“An accomplished first novel. Duncan Jepson magically inhabits the life of a young Chinese woman in 1930s Shanghai, following Feng’s unlikely evolution from neglected second daughter to first wife of the rich and powerful Sang family and her unexpected epilogue. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.” (Janice Y. K. Lee, New York Times bestselling author of The Piano Teacher)

“This story is breathtaking. Like a poem or a painting, it reveals the old Shanghai. It’s a great work that will move its readers.” (Hong Ying, international bestselling author of Daughter of the River)

“The life of this novel’s main character is splintered into thousands of pieces, each of them reflecting the changes of Chinese history, yet all of them coming out in Duncan Jepson’s poetic, passionate writing.” (Qiu Xiaolong, author of the Inspector Chen mysteries)

“A beautifully poetic story. Duncan Jepson creates a poignant set of characters and follows the journey of one woman who attempts to stop the cycle of history in the only way she knows how, but with dire consequences.” (Geling Yan, author of The Banquet Bug)

From the Back Cover

For every young Chinese woman in 1930s Shanghai, following the path of duty takes precedence over personal desires

For Feng, that means becoming the bride of a wealthy businessman in a marriage arranged by her parents. In the enclosed world of the Sang household—a place of public ceremony and private cruelty—fulfilling her duty means bearing a male heir.

The life that has been forced on her makes Feng bitter and resentful, and she plots a terrible revenge. But with the passing years comes a reckoning, and Feng must reconcile herself with the sacrifices and terrible choices she has made in order to assure her place in the family and society—even as the violent, relentless tide of revolution engulfs her country.

Both a sweeping historical novel and an intimate portrait of one woman’s struggle against tradition, All the Flowers in Shanghai marks the debut of a sensitive and revelatory writer.


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Customer Reviews

Felt little empathy for the main character.
Marty P. Babcock
She didn't seem to be a self-centered young girl but she does become a very selfish woman.
B. Ferris
I just finished reading this book and am slightly disappointed by the ending.
bookreader "Melanie"

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By L. Young VINE VOICE on September 25, 2011
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In 1930s Shanghai, innocent, 17 year old Feng is married off into the powerful Sang family, to be First Wife to their First Son. Feng's social climbing mother's ambitions are now fulfilled. Feng becomes a prisoner of traditional Chinese familial life. She is nothing more than a means to an end - a sexual object meant to give birth to a male heir for the Sang family. Until she can provide such a heir Feng is mocked and ridiculed by her father in law and mother in law, and the rest of the extended family that lives together in a lavish home tended by servants. In revenge for this abusive treatment she commits an act of revenge which will haunt her for the rest of her life. Herein lies the problem with this novel (one of several), I just didn't find this act of revenge plausible particularly in the Thirties.

Almost all of the narrative takes place within the Sang family compound to emphasize Feng's circumscribed life. Very little of what goes on in the outside world penetrates the novel, and this is a flaw. If the reader is unaware of the glittering life of the wealthy in Shanghai in the Thirties, the brutality of the Japanese occupation and the Communist revolution and Mao's Great Leap Forward they will learn little of it here.

I can only wonder why this novel was written. What does it add? There are dozens of novels already out there portraying the oppression of women in Chinese society. Similiarly there are plenty of novels covering the Japanese occupation and Communist Revolution. All one needs to do is read Lisa See's two most recent novels for a more thorough look at this historical context. Her novel 'Shanghai Girls' is far superior to this novel and is also set in Shanghai during the same period of time.

Finally I found Feng to be an unlikable character.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By book junkie VINE VOICE on September 26, 2011
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a beautifully written book set during the time of the Communist revolution in China. Feng is the mostly ignored second daughter of a middle class family. Her mother has aspirations to marry their beautiful eldest daughter into a wealthy family. Unforeseen circumstances force Feng to marry her sister's intended, and assume her sister's life.

Feng is in a difficult situation but she is also difficult to like. In fact, most of the characters in this book were difficult to like. Since I usually prefer upbeat books, I was surprised I liked this one as well as I did. There was a strong undercurrent of emotion in this book that made it engrossing, and the characters will linger in your mind long after the last page has been turned.

This book reminded me very much of "Memoirs of a Geisha." The historical detail was very well done and it was interesting to read about the revolution from the point of view of the working class. Unfortunately, Feng was fairly oblivious to the revolution for most of the book, so we only get hints of what it was like for the upper class.

My only issue with the book is that some of the choices Feng made didn't seem to agree with her character as she was written. On the whole though, this was a good and satisfying read.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By annie VINE VOICE on October 14, 2011
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I found this to be an interesting novel to read, yet in the end I was disappointed. While this book is well-written, and gives the reader a look into what life could have been like in Shanghai in the 30's, I find the main character's change of personality hard to believe. It is hard to imagine that someone so kind and loving could change into such a cruel, bitter person.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Rebekah VINE VOICE on October 31, 2011
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book was an engaging read, I finished it quickly because I was eager find out what happened. As the book began, Feng is lovely and simple, and I identified with her at first. I was, however, sadly disappointed by the time I reached the end.

If I'm going to read a book where the main character (or characters) have all odds stacked against them, or have many wrongs done to them, I'm looking for the strength of those characters to rise and overcome to the best of their ability at some point in some way. I don't expect sweet little pat endings, no. But I like to find some glimmer of hope and triumph that makes the story shine.

Without giving too much away, I'll just say that this does not happen, at all, in "All the Flowers in Shanghai."
Unkindness leads to bitterness.
Bitterness leads to more unkind, retaliatory acts.
Lack of maturity and critical thinking leads to regret, but not reconciliation.
Hard circumstances lead to a hardened heart.
Selfishness, when allowed to take hold, takes over like an ugly weed.
Promises of hope and new beginnings are then selfishly ignored.

I kept thinking that around the next corner, Feng would take a turn toward some sort of new-found personal strength, overcome her obstacles in some way, and inspire me. If nothing else, within her mind and thoughts! But she did none of these things, bound by her tragic downward spiral toward selfishness.

Even the idea of Feng writing this to her daughter so that the daughter will understand the mother took on a bitter aftertaste. Feng really had no desire to find out about her daughter or to understand her, but only to be understood. At least that's how it seemed to me by the time I reached the end.
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All the Flowers in Shanghai: A Novel
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