Wednesday, November 23, 2011

All The Flowers in Shanghai-Duncan Jepson

All The Flowers in Shanghai

Duncan Jepson

Morrow, Dec 20 2011, $13.99

ISBN: 9780062081605

In 1932 Shanghai Sister is obligated to marry Xiong Fa. Her parents are pleased with the match as his family is wealthy and of a socially higher status. However, when Sister dies, unprepared Feng must marry Xiong. Feng prefers exploring gardens with her grandfather and her BFF Bi, Bi, the seamstress’s son, but is an obedient daughter so she marries Xiong.

Following seventeen years of freedom to do much of what she wants, Feng is unhappy with her suddenly restricted life amidst the Sang clan of her spouse. They treat her as a vessel for the required male heir. However, she soon figures out the power of her uterus and becomes the bitter tyrannical First Wife and First Mother to her son. The Japanese invade China leading to centuries of social class distinction collapsing. Remorseful Feng realizes what her acrimony has wrought as she must face what she did to her wrong gender first child.

All The Flowers in Shanghai is a deep historical tale that provides a profound look at China during the middle decades of the twentieth century when social upheaval was the norm. The story line is seen predominately though the eyes of Feng, an intriguing individual whose loathing of her lot makes her do ugly things. Although eras and key moments flash by too quickly becoming a distraction, overall readers will relish Duncan Jepson’s engaging glimpse of China circa 1930s-through the late 1960s Cultural Revolution.

Harriet Klausner

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