Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Review: All the Flowers in Shanghai

All the Flowers in Shanghai by Duncan Jepson
Genre: Historical Fiction, Cultural - China
Pages: 302 (ARC)
Source: TLC Book tours

All the Flowers in Shanghai is Jepson's stunning debut novel. Set in 1930s Shanghai,the Paris of the East, but where following the path of duty still takes precedence over personal desires, a young Chinese woman named Feng finds herself in an arranged marriage to a wealthy businessman. In the enclosed world of her new household-a place of public ceremony and private cruelty-she learns that, above all else, she must bear a male heir. Ruthless and embittered by the life that has been forced on her, Feng seeks revenge by doing the unthinkable. Years later, she must come to a reckoning with the decisions she has made to assure her place in family and society, before the entire country is caught up in the fast-flowing tide of revolution.

My Rating:

My Review:
This beautifully written novel introduces a young innocent woman, Feng, who expects to spend her life walking in her garden and taking care of her parents in their old age.  Her parents have not groomed her to do otherwise.  However, disaster strikes and Feng finds herself in an arranged marriage and entering an entirely different life with few allies.  Feng soon loses her innocence and becomes like the people who have tormented her but soon comes to regret some of her decisions.  It is these decisions that define the later parts of her life.

Though the book started off a bit slow to me, I did become engrossed in the story and invested in Feng's life.  I quickly found myself almost tearing the pages to find out what would happen next, but I'm not quite sure how I feel about what I found.  The ending was a big shift in setting from the rest of the book, taking me by surprise and I never really settled into it.  Feng was a very interesting character who changed throughout the novel.  However, her shift in character and personality seemed overly dramatic and extreme for the circumstances.  She went from being so innocent that I would almost call her simple, to a conniving and manipulative woman who wanted others to suffer, but the transition was quick and reasoning was weak, especially considering the time and culture.  It just seemed a bit unbelievable and extreme.

I should note that the story is told in first person  point of view (which seems unusual for historical fiction) and I found myself a bit confused at times because I lacked the background to appreciate many of the historical events taking place.

That is not to say that it did not have enjoyable moments.  The story was told simply, giving hints at just the right moments to keep the reader intrigued.  Read this if you are interested in Chinese culture from the 1930s to the transition into the revolution.  It is certainly a quick entertaining read.

This challenge satisfies the Eclectic Reader 2012 Challenge

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  1. I'm glad you enjoyed this one even it it wasn't a perfect read. Sometimes quick and entertaining is just what I need!

    Thank for being a part of the tour.

  2. This one seems to be getting mixed reviews. I can't decide whether I want to try it or not.

  3. Honest, refreshing review. Not a huge fan of historical fiction and this sounds like it's really slow. Combine the two and it would probably be a snorefest for me.

  4. Only a meh? I did read another review who said she had expected something else from this one so I just do not know. It has to call out to me then

  5. *sigh* sadly, it doesn't sound like something I would enjoy as slow paces kind of kill me.
    Thanks for the honest review.

  6. I've read a lot of reviews that echo your thoughts. I think I'll pass on this one. And I had such high hopes for it, based on that gorgeous cover!

  7. I'm a fan of novels that explore Chinese and Japanese culture, so I'd probably find this one interesting. The sharp shift in the character's personality doesn't sound like a good thing for the reader.

  8. The protagonist sounds a wee bit unrealistic... Also, I dislike it when a book starts out awesome and ends up meh.

  9. The protagonist sounds interesting, but I'm not sure I could take the slow build up. I have like no attention span lately so slow going books just aren't working for me. LOL

  10. Dar(Peeking Between the Pages)January 26, 2012 at 2:07 PM

    I'm reading such back and forth reviews on this one. Some like it and other are like you - kind of down the middle. I'm going to be starting it later this week. I'm curious to see what I'll think of it as I really enjoy books on Chinese culture.

  11. Doesn't sound like something I'd find interesting. I hate when characters have a quick shift in thought and deed without any real impacting reasons. But at least the author did a good job in dropping clues and hints to keep you turning the pages.

  12. I love the cover and was hoping the book would live up to it. Sounds like one I'll pass on.

  13. I haven't had luck with these kinds of books and this one sounds like it would be the same. It almost seems misleading because it sounds like it would be amazing. Thanks for the review :)

    Cozy Up With A Good Read

  14. Juju at Tales of Whimsy.comJanuary 26, 2012 at 2:07 PM

    Sounds good but not for me. Great review.


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