All the Flowers in Shanghai by Duncan Jepson

Posted December 12, 2011 by Kara in Uncategorized / 2 Comments

Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: December 20th, 2011
Pages: 352 (It does not feel this long)
Genre: Historical, Asian Fiction
Cover: The cover alone made me want to request it, so they did something right.
Source: Edelweiss from the publisher

All the Flowers in ShanghaiAll the Flowers in Shanghai by Duncan Jepson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


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.


I’m going to do this review a little bit differently because I don’t have a whole lot to say, and the easiest thing to do when this happens is to form lists. So while it goes against all of my other review writing, it will help me talk about specific points.


-I loved the story in this novel. It was epic and sweeping and it may me feel a whole range of different emotions. I couldn’t wait to see what happened next.

-I also enjoyed the writing style. I enjoyed the simplicity and yet it still had the ability to paint a mesmerizing picture.

-This may be a dislike for some of you, but this book was extremely depressing. It was so oppressive and just made me really sad while reading it. That’s not always a great thing, but here it was. I think the author accomplished what he set out to do, which was to capture exactly how hard it was for Asian women, and in a lot of cases still is today.

-The protagonist made me angry. There were times when I loved her and wanted to rescue her from her horrible fate, but there were also times when I thought that she was just as bad as the rest of them, if not worse. It’s very hard to root for a protag who makes bad decisions, but again, I think this is what the author was after.


-Lack of detail in the scenery. Except for wherever it was that Feng was living, you had literally no idea what was going on in the outside world. It was implied, but I would have liked some more detail into what life was like back then. There was some at the end, and now on thinking back to the book, that was one of my favorite parts. I just felt everything was memorable. And that’s because all the story components were there.

-Towards the end, there was a major jump forward in time and I didn’t like this. I would have much preferred this to be a longer book with twists and turns. It had the potential to be one of those epic cultural reads like Snow Flower and Memoirs, and I think it missed the mark by a hair. It skipped a bunch of years and I couldn’t help but think I was left out of something. I rarely ever ask for a book to be longer, this may be a first, but here I felt like something was missing.

-Final criticism? Character development. It was good, it just could have been better. I didn’t find myself caring for the characters as much as I could have. This was a DEPRESSING book. I should have shed a tear and I didn’t. And that’s because I was missing a connection to the characters and all the tragedy that surrounded them.

Still, if you like cultural reads, this is definitely a book you should pick up. It wasn’t quite as good as Snow Flower, but it had a great story and it was definitely easy to read and easy to follow. It’s a good story for people who think their life sucks and want to read about someone whose life sucks more. Hey, I’m just being honest. 😉

To pre-order All the Flowers in Shanghai from, click here: All the Flowers in Shanghai.

2 responses to “All the Flowers in Shanghai by Duncan Jepson

  1. Yeah, you definitely want to feel the characters’ pain when reading a depressing story, otherwise the author missed the mark. Great review, and I LOVE that cover. 🙂

  2. The cover is what made me buy the book! When I reviewed it, I titled my review “Where is the smiling girl?” I agree with your on all your points, both negative and postive. I do have one to add. I didn’t think that the author was able to get into the way that women think. I think if he had, the main character would have been more sympathic. Also with the part that the author discusses his mother, I felt a lot of animostity towards her and I think that came out in this book.

    Carol Wong

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