As quoted by the Chinese Communist revolutionary leader and the founding father of the People’s Republic of China, Mao Tse Tung, commonly called Chairman Mao,

“In class society, everyone lives as a member of a particular class, and every kind of thinking, without exception, is stamped with the brand of a class.”

Well no wonder why the middle-class Chinese families in the 1930s were so keen on becoming the ‘face’ of the society or, rather say a class society, thus leading to animosity between the poor and rich and the rich used to treat the poor like the untouchables. The rich used to get scared whether if their children befriend someone so poor, that they might lose their ‘face’ in the society. It’s so astounding to see that this type of narrow-mindedness existed in those people and thus giving birth to seed of the Chinese revolution. Not only that, it was shameful to give birth to daughters in the rich family and how they were given away to the poor farmers.

Well it was so fascinating to gather these kinds of knowledge and especially more captivating and alluring to read about a young girl’s life journey during those hard times. A very notable author-cum-award-winning-director/producer-of-5-feature-films-cum-editor-cum-lawyer, Duncan Jepson has remarkably got into the skin of a young Chinese girl living in Shanghai, in his novel, All the Flowers in Shanghai, to narrate her journey from the beautiful gardens to the lavish cage of marriage to the dreadful village outside Shanghai. After reading this book, I learnt that by writing this novel, Duncan has certainly paid tribute to his loving mother as well as to his homeland and the people of his homeland. And as said by the American leader/politician/author, James E. Faust,

“There is no greater good in all the world than motherhood. The influence of a mother in the lives of her children is beyond calculation.” 

And Duncan Jepson has justified these striking words in his novel so brilliantly. Motherhood is not some responsibility but it is a gift of life beyond any material or earthly possessions and how Feng, Duncan’s novel’s primary character realizes this and dons the hat of a mother so beautifully.

A 17year old girl named Xiao Feng, living under the wings of his grandfather, who is her only friend in her family. Since her parents were too focused on their elder daughter, so Feng used to get away with her grandfather into the beautiful gardens where they both used to tend to the beautiful flowers. But her sister’s sudden death changes the course of Feng’s life and simultaneously killing away all her dreams. She gets trapped into her marriage, soon becoming a mother for the first time, but since it was a shame to give birth to daughters, so Feng gives her daughter away to some poor farmers, and when she realizes her loss over her daughter, it was too late. Thus her life turns more painful and unbearable each passing day. Will she ever find her? Will she ever prove herself as a mother? Will she ever find a way to freedom from her cage? Read this book, to find it out and watch you getting bewildered by this exotic and forbidden tale.

It’s so spectacular to see that a man can easily get into the skin of a vulnerable young woman and penning down her journey as well as bringing out the right emotions into her. Even after reading the whole book, I was still stupefied by the fact that how he described each and every emotion of Feng so accurately and how he traced her journey from a young virgin girl to a scared wife to a rich family to being a mother.

Well the characters are very extraordinary and remarkable. Feng, the protagonist, who was first portrayed as an immature (way too immature) young teenage girl, who love tending flowers in her garden and used to compare people and their characteristics with flowers, then becoming the wife to a rich family and finally becoming a mother and then failing at it. All through her journey, we find Feng as being immature vulnerable to scared to confident to determined and finally brave woman and also it was too surprising to see how after suffering from too much pain and torture, in the and she stands as a one true brave and confident lady.
Bi, a young lad who is a fisherman’s son, and since his mother was a seamstress to Feng’s sister, he used to visit the garden to catch fish. Eventually, Bi and Feng become more than just friends and being naive, they never understood their feelings toward each other. But their chemistry was quite inevitable and undeniable and very innocent.
Xiong Fa was the man Feng was married to, a very coward man, and living under the wings of his mother, who was the First wife to his father. But he was quite caring and loving and never intended to harm Feng. It was Feng who never understood his intentions and feelings. And in the end, Xiong Fa proves to be a good father.
Meng Lu, younger son of Feng, was quite intelligent and smart like his mother but he was born with a deformed leg, hence making him a victim of torments from his cousins. But it was amazing to see just like his mother, he too used to see good in people.
Sang Yu was Feng’s daughter, whom she traded way with the poor peasants. Although Feng remain guilty all through her life because of her act, but she had a reason behind it. And I was amazed to see even after getting beaten up, thrown away from her, Yu forgives her mother in the end.

Finally Duncan’s writing is something, so lyrical, so poetic and so beautiful that it mesmerizes you completely. You become hooked to the novel till its very end. You laugh, cry and smile along with Feng’s journey. According to me the whole story was very painfully beautiful.

If you want to know about the Chinese customs, narrow-mindedness towards daughters and arranged marriages and how one revolution changed the course o Chinese history, then this book is a must read!

Duncan Jepson, I cannot thank you enough for giving me this honorable opportunity to read your novel. 

P.S. Find yourself falling in love with the novel’s cover and the beautiful texture of the pages!