Eileen Granfors's Reviews > All the Flowers in Shanghai

All the Flowers in Shanghai by Duncan Jepson
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's review
Oct 01, 11

bookshelves: coming-of-age, environment, families, friendship, historical-fiction, local-color, marriage, politics, war
Read from September 29 to October 01, 2011

Duncan Jepson, a Eurasian author, has written a book that explores Chinese culture from a woman's point of view. If you are a reader who enjoyed "The Good Earth," "Snowflower and the Secret Fan," or "Memoirs of a Geisha," Jepson's tale is one to teach and entertain you.

He focuses on Feng, the younger sister of a very modern (1930s) Chinese girl. Her sister learns Western dances and wears Western clothes. She is to be married into a rich family, earning more respect for the family she comes from. The younger sister, at seventeen, has been trained only to take care of their parents in their old age. Feng wears dowdy clothes. She would rather watch the flowers grow and the fisher boy, Bi, on the river bank than go out in fancy dresses.

But plans change, and Feng is sold into a marriage. First Wife and Second Wife make her life a disaster as does her father-in-law. She does not feel antipathy towards her husband until the pressure increases for them to produce a male heir.

Feng becomes a depressed, angry, vengeful person. She lives to humiliate the family she has married into, trusting only her servant with her true thoughts and hopes. She commits an unspeakable act. She drives herself to become more like her sister, to enjoy the riches of the world and to apply the rule of law that is now hers by marriage. She acts out, often wickedly, towards the servants and her husband.

Time passes. Feng ages. The Revolution comes to China. Feng sets out on a dangerous journey to find the one person she had loved, the peasant boy, Bi. The ending of the book holds bittersweet realizations about the meaning of love.

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