A passionate Chinese saga

All the Flowers in Shanghai by Duncan Jepson captures the romance, intrigue, and passions of Shanghai in the 1930s. Partially inspired by Jepson’s mother, this novel depicts the wealthy Chinese women who existed as birds in gilded cages. The wives of prosperous merchants were pampered, but their lives included large families full of demands, intrigue, and even danger. 

All the Flowers in Shanghai tells the story of Feng, a young girl who is forced to take her dead sister’s place. She must marry a wealthy businessman she hardly knows. Feng is unprepared for the life she will face. Her older sister and her mother had carefully plotted this marriage to advance their status.
 
Feng has grown up largely under her grandfather’s guidance. He is a gardener and botanist who rambles with her in the Imperial gardens, and teaches Feng about plants and trees. Feng dreams of a handsome young peasant she met while walking with her grandfather. Even as she is forced to marry into the Sang family, she dreams of a simpler life and her peasant.
 
Slowly Feng learns to operate in the political Sang family. She comes to understand that her role in life, as well as her only source of power, lies in giving birth to a male heir. She hardens her heart and loses herself as she adjusts to life in her gilded cage as China heads toward revolution.
 
Jepson does masterful job of seamlessly weaving the story of a young woman’s life, transformed by a loveless marriage. Shanghai in the 1030s was elegant and fascinating, and Jepson does it justice. The story is full of unexpected twists and turns, as well as enlightening cultural details.
 
All the Flowers in Shanghai by Duncan Jepson is an intriguing page-turner. This exotic, but all-too-human tale of hard bargains and difficult choices will linger in your memory.
Share