Thursday, January 5, 2012

All the Flowers in Shanghai - Book Review

Writing and publishing a novel titled All the Flowers in Shanghai not long after the success of Lisa See's novel Shanghai Girls and then including a cover line comparing this work to Lisa See's work can have several consequences. If you're lucky, readers of Lisa See's books will be intrigued, buy and read your novel (the ultimate goal). However, the downside of this is that you will always be compared to Lisa See. Good luck with that.

Duncan Jepson, the author of All the Flowers in Shanghai, tells an interesting story of Feng, a young Chinese woman forced into an arranged marriage in the years before the country was invaded by the Japanese. The story reads as an explanation from a much older Feng to her estranged daughter. The opening chapters are intriguing and the reader experiences the very real impending doom that seems so much worse since the innocent and young Feng is naive to her future.

The story has holes, however, and loses momentum. The story skips the entire war though it was interesting to read about the changes to China as the communists took control after the war. The character development also seems flawed. Feng, who appears to mature and grow and overcome her abuse, never seems to see the good in the people around her and reacts with selfishness. Her personal redemption comes so late and I was, frankly, disappointed by the ending.

As a writer, I think Duncan Jepson has potential and for a debut novel, All the Flowers in Shanghai is pretty good.

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