Monday, February 13, 2012

All The Flowers In Shanghi

For every young Chinese woman in 1930s Shanghai, following the path of duty takes precedence over personal desires

For Feng, that means becoming the bride of a wealthy businessman in a marriage arranged by her parents. In the enclosed world of the Sang household—a place of public ceremony and private cruelty—fulfilling her duty means bearing a male heir.

The life that has been forced on her makes Feng bitter and resentful, and she plots a terrible revenge. But with the passing years comes a reckoning, and Feng must reconcile herself with the sacrifices and terrible choices she has made in order to assure her place in the family and society—even as the violent, relentless tide of revolution engulfs her country.

Both a sweeping historical novel and an intimate portrait of one woman’s struggle against tradition, All the Flowers in Shanghai marks the debut of a sensitive and revelatory writer.

The 411:

I was interested in reading this book because I am a huge fan of Snow Flower and The Secret Fan and since have loved books about Woman growing up in China.

When Feng is forced to take her sister's place as a bride to a wealthy family I was hopeful that she would find love and possibly, eventually understand her sister and her parents. Alas, that was not the case. Poor Feng, my heart broke for her as she is forced without any knowledge or even respected enough to have her parents ask her if she was interested in getting to know her sister's fiance. When Feng whose innocence in mind and age is forced into being married into a wealthy family as a way for their first son to have his first wife so that the families "don't lose face" angered me. While I understand that this is the history of many woman in China I wondered why Feng in the way she was.

While at first I was sympathetic even, motherly to her, I found her very cruel and manipulative and wonder how someone at 17 could muster the thoughts to do so. She was a country girl who spent her day walking with her grandfather, fishing and talking about flower. Yet, after being married quickly understands how she can manipulate her husband, in laws and servant. Quickly, I found myself more sympathetic to her poor husband who was trying very hard to win her affection and doing what was expected to him.

While the characters are unlikable and some who I felt I never even got to know or understand, I did like the way the author, who is a man, wrote! I enjoyed the story, the details, the picture painted, and the Chinese culture which I find very interesting.

I didn't love the ending and the writer lost me midway through making me feel that he didn't truly know his character. Feng, would keep a therapist in business for years. Her choices throughout the book were odd and inconsistent but I do feel it to be worth a read.

Disclosure: I received a complimentry copy of this book from William Morrow Paperback Books/HarperCollins Publishing

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