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All the Flowers in Shanghai by Duncan Jepson

All the Flowers in Shanghai by Duncan Jepson is set in 1930s Shanghai and is told by Xiao Feng as she writes down her past, beginning with the courting of her beautiful sister who has been spoiled by her parents.  Her mother’s ambitions lie with her sister, and Feng is on the sidelines watching her sister be paraded in front of other families with prominence in society and wonders where their ambitions will lead.  The prose is easy to read and captures attentions easily with its bright colors and very descriptive settings, but in many ways, the characters initially seem cliched with the older sister demonstrating her importance over her younger sister and treating her poorly and the younger sister simply accepting the treatment.  However, this is a story about Feng and her relationship with her grandfather as much as it is about the ambitions and corruption of a family and its members when disappointment strikes.

“I hope that what I have written in these rough pages of cloth will show you how we were so bound to tradition and history that we could not see what was so obvious and that though I have always loved you, I never understood that love is nothing unless it is expressed.”  (page 2 ARC)

Feng is very naive about the world around her and the traditions that families use to live their lives, but some of the fault for that lies with her parents and her grandfather who sheltered her from the obligations of women in Chinese society.  Her parents focused all of their attentions on her sister and her grandfather kept her in the dark about the realities of life and treated her more like a boy who would have any number of opportunities.  Jepson’s story is like many others about Chinese families with a naive young girl thrust into a married life she does not want and does not know how to navigate.  Feng is transformed into First Wife, and as such, she learns to command staff and even her husband as she holds the family’s fate of having a male heir in her hands.

Readers will see a desperate woman who wants to control her own fate by any means necessary, and unfortunately ends up transforming herself into a corrupt woman with little joy and many regrets.  Jepson’s characters are more like caricatures, with the overbearing father-in-law and mother-in-law, the pliable husband with no backbone, and the servant maid who does as her mistress tells her regardless of the consequences.  Jepson loses some of the pizazz of his writing once the bustling city streets and beautiful gardens fade into the background of the secluded Sang house; readers feel cramped inside the large home’s walls, much like Feng does.  In this way, Jepson has created a very specific atmosphere and controlled environment for his characters to navigate.

All the Flowers in Shanghai by Duncan Jepson is an engrossing tale that has been told a number of times, but his story will keep readers turning the pages.  There will be times when they will shout at Feng to grow up and stop being so naive, but at other times they will shake their heads as she makes regretful choices and begins to care about the most superficial things in life, abandoning the girl she once was.  Its a quick read, but there is a lack of depth in characters and the story seems like one that has been told several times.  However, it is entertaining and enjoyable giving readers a glimpse of a changing China.

About the Author:

Duncan Jepson is the award-winning director and producer of five feature films. He has also produced documentaries for Discovery Channel Asia and National Geographic Channel. He was the editor of the Asia-based fashion magazine West East and is a founder and managing editor of the Asia Literary Review. A lawyer by profession, he lives in Hong Kong.

Check out the other stops on the TLC Book Tour by clicking the tour host icon.

Mailbox Monday #156

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch. This month’s host is the Let Them Read Books.

Kristi of The Story Siren continues to sponsor her In My Mailbox meme.

Both of these memes allow bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received this week:

1.  Lost in Timeby Melissa de la Cruz from SantaThing!

2.  Masquerade by Melissa de la Cruz from SantaThing!

3.  Thirst: The Eternal Dawn No. 3 by Christopher Pike from SantaThing!

4.  Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron unsolicited from Algonquin Books.

5.  Small Damages by Beth Kephart from the author for review.

6.  Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs from Book Blogger Holiday Swap partner Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews.

7.  Jane Austen Made Me Do It edited by Laurel Ann Nattress from Book Blogger Holiday Swap partner Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews.

8. All the Flowers in Shanghai by Duncan Jepson from Harper Collins for review.

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #151

First, I would like to congratulate (Ryan) on winning My Soul to Take by Tananarive Due (my review) from the last Mailbox Monday giveaway.

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch. This month’s host is the Mailbox Monday tour blog.

Kristi of The Story Siren continues to sponsor her In My Mailbox meme.

Both of these memes allow bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received this week:

1.  You Are My Only by Beth Kephart; finally my 5 pre-ordered books arrived (so the two of you readers who have won a copy should receive them soon from me) and 1 autographed copy from Beth after I won her Treasure Hunt, which I will treasure forever.

2.  Dreaming of Mr. Darcy by Victoria Connelly for review in January from Sourcebooks.

3.  Christmas at Pemberley by Regina Jeffers for review in December from Ulysses Press.

4.  Henry Tilney's Diary by Amanda Grange for review in December from Berkley/Penguin.

5.  The Unexpected Miss Bennet by Patrice Sarath for review in December from Berkley/Penguin.

6. Ivan and Misha by Michael Alenyikov, which I won from Unabridged Chick!

7. All the Flowers in Shanghai by Duncan Jepson from Library Thing Early Reviewers.

What did you get in your mailbox?