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All the Flowers in Shanghai: A Novel

3.65  ·  Rating Details ·  1,870 Ratings  ·  232 Reviews
“Duncan Jepson magically inhabits the life of a young Chinese woman in 1930s Shanghai….I thoroughly enjoyed this book.”
—Janice Y. K. Lee, New York Times bestselling author of The Piano Teacher

“Breathtaking….A great work that will move its readers.”
—Hong Ying, international bestselling author of Daughter of the River

Readers previously enchanted by Memoirs of a Geisha, Empre
ebook, 320 pages
Published December 20th 2011 by William Morrow Paperbacks
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As quoted by the Chinese Communist revolutionary leader and the founding father of the People's Republic of China, Mao Tse Tung, commonly called Chairman Mao,

"In class society, everyone lives as a member of a particular class, and every kind of thinking, without exception, is stamped with the brand of a class."

Well no wonder why the middle-class Chinese families in the 1930s were so keen on becoming the 'face' of the society or, rather say a class society, thus leading to animosity between the p
Jan 07, 2012 Patty rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This books shares the story of a very young, very naive girl in pre-revolution China, Feng. She is the second born and all of her mother's energy has been poured into her elder sister. Her mother longs to enter "society" and is using the marriage of her first daughter to try and achieve this goal. When the seamstress comes to make the wedding dress Feng meets his son and imagines herself in love with him as she shares time with him in the family gardens.

When her sister dies Feng is basically sol
Jan 16, 2012 Audrey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While I've never really had all that much interest in China (I've always been more of a Japan girl), I have this weird fascination with books about China. I LOVE reading about Chinese history and Red China and Mao Tse Tung and foot binding and, well, if it involves Chinese history in any way, I want to, have to read it! So I of course jumped at the opportunity to review Duncan Jesper's first novel, All the Flowers in Shanghai.

And mostly, I wasn't disappointed. This story, written in letter forma
Despite having finished All the Flowers in Shanghai several weeks ago, I have been finding it difficult to write a review, mostly because I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about the book.

I requested this book fully aware that the premise was not a completely new one. Also, while I have read many books set in China, especially dealing with the nature of relationships and the particular conditions experienced by women in that culture, I enjoy the genre and look forward to new stories along the same
Sep 17, 2014 Dennis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Duncan Jepson's beautiful, debut novel is a marvelous journey, set in pre-war, 1930s Shanghai to the cultural revolution of the 1960s, seen through the eyes of Xiao Feng. The seventeen year old Feng lives a carefree life, spending her time in the back alleys with the "untouchables" and the garden with her grandfather, learning the Latin names of flowers.

Feng's glamorous, older sister has been matched to marry the son of a wealthy Shanghai businessman. However, her plans are thwarted when she bec
Unfortunately I still am attracted to books with fancy covers. This was an interesting perspective of a woman living through an arranged marriage, before and after the major political changes in China before and after the cultural revolution.
The book is quite wordy, and not neccessarily wordy in the right places. It is actually written as a memoir to the main character's daughter. It appears to be a look into the life of a young woman forced into a lavish, but cold hearted rich family. And she
May 29, 2012 Brenda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Much seemed to have been made about this book being written by a man. Jepson did a good job in telling this story, but I have read other books about women by male authors who have done better. One Thousand Splendid Suns comes quickly to mind. The woman in the story slipped back and forth between memories, the present and her dreams and it was at times difficult to tell which was which. I enjoyed the story of a young Chinese girl who was married off into a wealthy family. I was glad to see her fi ...more
Oct 21, 2011 Laurie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This first novel by Jepson gets off to a good start: Feng, a teenage girl in 1930s Shanghai, has been ignored by her parents all her life. Her mother has put all her attention and money into the older daughter, grooming her to marry into one of Shanghai’s top families. As the second daughter, Feng exists to never marry and to take care of her parent’s in their old age. Her grandfather, though, loves her and teaches her the Latin names of the plants in a public garden in Shanghai. Here she meets ...more
Jul 24, 2011 Karen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thanks to Book of the Month Club for sending me this. This first novel by Duncan Jepson is outstanding! It is written as a letter to an abandoned daughter and is heartbreaking, but tells the story of China in the early twentieth century with such wonderful detail that I fell in love with it. It is rare that I scream at the end of a book, but I did this one. It just seemed impossible that I could leave these characters behind without knowing their future. But that is what Mr. Jepson does and with ...more
Dec 09, 2011 Lisa rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, east-asia, china
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 20, 2011 Beverly rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I rated this book 2+

This is a novel of cultural mores and betrayals. Up until she is seventeen, Feng has been taught her obligation in life is to care for her aging parents. Without any considerations of her desires or preparation, Feng is thrust into the haughty suffocating world of upper class Shanghai in the 1930s. Feeling betrayed by those she thought loved her and hoping to avoid a life of humiliation, Feng puts in place, a plan of revenge, and this is the story the readers will follow.
Mar 26, 2012 Alexis rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
My mother, who needs to update her goodreads books, said that this book is disappointing. I agree.

Here's why-

1. Mom and I have read 80 billion books about China and Chinese history. I'm guessing that we are very familiar with these types of stories and are a bit picky. We want to learn something new. We are hard core readers of the genre and we expect more. People who are not familiar with Chinese culture or history might enjoy this book more.

2. The author doesn't really focus on the Communist p
Jan 02, 2012 Selena rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lost Horse
Sep 05, 2011 Lost Horse rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book makes me miss my Borders...I would have had tons of customers who I would have recommended this book for summer vacation reading. Rather easy and quick, but I still enjoyed the character development. Well done...and the author got a women's voice in very clever ways.
Oct 01, 2011 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'll read anything about 1930s Shanghai. So I was naturally drawn to Duncan Jepson's debut novel, All the Flowers in Shanghai. I was impressed by the way it transcends several eras in modern Chinese history: the rigid imperial family structure, the roaring decadence of 1930s Shanghai, and the Communist Revolution (good and bad, but mostly bad).

The main character, Feng, is a shy girl from an upper-middle class family that aims to marry into a wealthy family. Feng's sister, simply named Sister, i
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
I'm sort of baffled about this book. A historical novel set in 1930s Shanghai, the story follows Feng, a naive and excessively innocent woman forced into an arranged marriage with a powerful family. The resulting marriage twists her in to a different kind of woman, and we follow her transformation through the '40s and the Chinese Revolution.

This rich historical setting felt like a total waste as the novel is really about Feng's sexual education and the way her marriage warps her, causing her to
Nov 18, 2014 Izida rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Не ми хареса особено. Според мен не изпълни идеята си - да е книга за майка, съжаляваща за направения избор да изостави дъщеря си. Просто не го усетих. Беше просто мемоар на отчаяна наивна жена, търсеща на кого да разкаже историята си - излишно изпълнена с драматизъм.
Може би щеше да е по-интересно, ако беше филм. Четях я мудно и въпреки десетките заврантулени изрази е книгата с най-малко отметки (само две) от всички книги, които съм чела тази година. Хм...
Last Night's Readings
I love this book, it was like a dumpling for my reading soul. It was hot enough to keep me wanting to read it all the time, and delicious in content to keep my mind in it. I throughly enjoy the book and was surprise with it being the writer's debut novel. The book inspire me to have a bit of courage myself against family politics and I feel better because of it. That's how strong I related to the book and the writing style is. Give it a taste, you won't regret your time with this Shanghai girl.
Jul 26, 2013 Jasmine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed reading this book very much. Very interesting storyline.
A few things that didn't click for me however.
The main character is 17 years old, yet until you are told that, I saw her as being about ten!
In addition, the changes in her character were a little less believable. Suddenly she seems to switch from being totally naive to a savvy manipulative woman. It didn't make sense.
However...the storyline was enjoyable, and I did have fun reading it. Still worthy of four stars I believe.
Oct 07, 2012 Carrie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Put me in a rotten mood. I admit it was well written, and that the author wanted to educate and make a point, but it was so depressing and the main character self destructive, that I just didn't enjoy it at all. I ended up finishing it as fast as I could, just to find out how it ended and be done with it.
Apr 15, 2012 Paula rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The novel taught a lesson - what deep seated hate can do to one's life.
Susan Black
End was a let down. Liked it 80% of it.
Mar 13, 2017 Christine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I find the stories of young Chinese women very interesting. The sense of duty and responsibility ran deep and was all they knew. Every person in a family was give a purpose from birth. First daughter was the golden child, she was molded into the perfect wife to catch a rich man with a family of influence to raise her own family's standing. Second daughter was expected to care for her parents until their death, like a servant.
Unfortunately sometimes oldest sister dies before a marriage contract c
Story Description:
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
Dec 14, 2011 Allison rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like Chinese history, people who enjoy novels
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Duncan Jepson’s All The Flowers In Shanghai is a coming-of-age saga concerning a young, sheltered woman — a second daughter — and the unexpected path she’s forced to take. I fell in love with Jepson’s descriptions of the lush gardens in which Feng learns about life from her grandfather, and his early presence in the book endeared me to the story. From the moment I started, I felt invested in Feng’s future and eager to learn what became of her.

The emphasis on tradition, “giving face” (paying resp
Sep 10, 2012 Beth rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
As a big fan of many of Lisa See's books (Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Shanghai Girls, Dreams of Joy, Peony in Love, etc.) as well as a few other historical fiction novels set in China, I had high expectations of All the Flowers in Shanghai. I ultimately was disappointed and had to force my way through to the end. The end was a bit more interesting with the details of Communist China coming into its own, so that did redeem the middle, but overall, too little, too late.

One of my problems with
All the Flowers of Shanghai...Before I give my review of this book, I have to clarify that I've read many books about China, Chinese Women and the Cultural Revolution. Being Chinese my self, surrounded by older Chinese women also gave me invaluable insights into the basic struggles and values of them. The bottom line is that I probably had a higher expectation for the book than most.

The story was told in the voice of Xiao Feng, as a letter to the daughter she never raised, recounting her own and
Lydia Presley
Original review posted here

This book has huge strengths and just as big of weaknesses. But I’m in that strange place where the weakness isn’t really a big weakness to me, due to the other reading I’ve done about China during this time period. So – here is the weakness: There really isn’t much information about the historical situation in China, but this isn’t a book that really advertises that it has that information.

This semester in school we talked a lot about history is based around wars and
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Duncan Jepson is the award-winning director, producer and writer of five feature films. He also produced documentaries for Discovery Channel Asia and National Geographic Channel. He was the editor of the Asia-based fashion magazine West East and a founder and managing editor of Asia Literary Review. He is a social commentator on Asia and regularly writes for The New York Times, Publishing Perspect ...more
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