Rated of 5
by Sally D. (Racine, WI) Flat
When I received this book, I was curious to read it but I was immediately put off by the cover and the title. I was afraid I had received poor imitation of some of the better books with the same setting.
But after putting it off for several weeks, I plunged in and discovered that I still held the same feelings. The story line itself might have been interesting but for some reason the minute details really slowed down the pace of the novel. Perhaps the fact that Duncan Jepson is a filmmaker and a lawyer makes prone to details but it doesn't always work in this book.
The characters and their motivations are somewhat confusing. When Feng had her first child she gives it away because she is angry. But I never really understood why she wanted her baby daughter to be raised in poverty. Then suddenly she gives in to enjoying the wealth and position of her family but it is never really clear why this transition took place.
I struggled through this book and would be hesitant to recommend it.
Rated of 5
by Beverly K. (Lockport, IL) All The Flowers In Shanghai
I was fascinated by the microscopic details Jepson was able to provide concerning the life of a young Chinese woman in 1930's Shanghai. I wished I felt more sympathy for the lead character Feng. Her deep sense of duty forces her into a loveless marriage and that leads to even more tragic circumstances. I was hoping against hope Feng would defy her family and seek her own destiny, but I realize Jepson's storyline bore the truth for many women during that time period.
Rated of 5
by Marcia F. (Batavia, IL) All The Flowers In Shanghai
This book was a very slow read and very difficult for me to really get into. None of the characters were very likeable and the subject of this book has been over used. It just wasn't a new subject - I have read too many other books on this subject that were just more interesting and informative. The ending lacked a conclusion and never tied things together.
Rated of 5
by Beverly J. (Huntersville, NC) Breaking the Cycle
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.
Despite the slow, slightly confusing, beginning, the author paints a compassionate portrait of Feng that readers will cheer for her as she conquers one trial after another, even when she acts irrationally. This deep characterization is strength of the book and will appeal to readers of women’s fiction.
I was disappointed at the lack of historical detail provided in the storyline, especially since Shanghai was a volatile place in the 1930s and 1940s. When historical detail was provided towards the end of the book, it was to help transition Feng into an act that was out-of-character, and thus unbelievable and upsetting the flow of the story. Overall the story was a little too unpredictable to me, and I left like I was watching a Lifetime movie. However, it is an easy book to read so will help past a rainy afternoon.
Rated of 5
by Patricia S. (Chicago, IL) All the Flowers in Shanghai
I was excited to hear about this book because Shanghai in the early 20th century was such a fascinating time--the transition between the old imperial China and the modern one. The description indicated that it spanned many years and centered on the place of the mother in the Chinese family. I hoped for exotic atmosphere, fascinating characters and a real feel for the period. Unfortunately, I got none of this. Instead the main character, Feng, was totally unlikable, very bitter and vindictive, and she hardly left her rooms in her house. The events of World War II and the Cultural Revolution mostly passed her by and she seemed to live in a total vaccuum. I found her motives impossible to understand and her determination to make everyone pay for the difficulties in her life was not attractive, nor did it allow us to see the other people in her life as fully-developed characters in their own right. While she was resentful at her forced marriage (and how was that worse than being raised solely to take care of her parents in their old age?), we never saw what her husband thought of the marriage. He didn't get the bride he expected either, and was pretty much under his parents control for many years, and all his wife did was blame him for her condition and belittle him. As far as examining the Chinese mother's place in the family, there is only one place--the dictator. Each mother lived at quite a distance from her children and seemed set-dressing for Feng's selfishness. All in all, this is one book I cannot recommend.
Rated of 5
by Lynn W. (Calabash, NC) All the Flowers in Shanghai
This reminded me of The Secret Fan in many ways, the Chinese sense of duty to family and the unworthiness of women. Feng, the main character, makes some poor choices that are meant for revenge but only cause pain to herself. She has some people in her life that prove to be truly good people and, perhaps, are more patient with Feng than she deserves. A good story that is not tied up too neatly at the end.
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