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Review: All the Flowers in Shanghai

By Bookaholic @BookReflections
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:
Review: All the Flowers in Shanghai
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.
Review: All the Flowers in Shanghai
This challenge satisfies the Eclectic Reader 2012 Challenge
Review: All the Flowers in Shanghai

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