- Beautiful cover, 1930’s China, how could I go wrong?
I also recommend:
- Wild Swans by Jung Chang
Summary from GoodReads:
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.
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 the events leading up to them. There is very little history taught in schools that centers around homemaking methods of women, or the methods of horse-shoeing by men. This is one of those kind of books, however. Historical fiction which takes a look at the way the women of 1930’s China ticked – their honor system, their treatment of daughters, their pride, and their choices.
Duncan Jepson fully explores what might be one possible reason behind the actions of a woman leading to the removal of her daughter from her home. Feng is so sweet and pure at the start of this story as she explores gardens, and deals with grubby hands and the scorn of an older, “wiser” sister. Due to a twist in circumstances, Feng ends up married to a man not of her own choosing, and placed into a home that is, for all intents and purposes, a pit of vipers. My heart broke, not only while watching Feng transform into a woman who could hold her own, but also at the circumstances surrounding that change.
Another slight issue I had with the book, however, was the sheer amount of time spent on things such as the leading up to and impregnating of Feng (which read a little like a sadistic porn novel), and the fact that Feng really had nothing to complain about with her husband, other than the fact of course that she didn’t choose or love him, which I admit is no small thing. Still, he treats her well – there’s no abuse or anything of the sort, so nothing to worry about with that, but.. I guess you’d need to read the book to understand why it bugs me a bit.
Overall – I thought the story was a beautiful look at the history of the woman in China in the 30’s. The focus was so intent on Feng, her choices, her lifestyle, and her family, that everything else falls to the wayside. Lush language makes the book very easy to fall into, and I was up until 2am to finish it last night because I didn’t want to put it down.
About the Author
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