Monday, August 25, 2008

The Painter from Shanghai by Jennifer Cody Epstein

This is the story of Pan Yuliang. While Yuliang is a real person, this story is a work of fiction. It follows Yuliang's life based on what facts are available, but of course keep in mind that it is a work of fiction. You got that, it made sense right?

Ok… the story starts off present day. Well, not present day as far as 2008 is concerned. It starts off in the year 1957. Yuliang is living in Paris and is a well known artist. Then the story goes into the past to when she is just a girl, around 14 years of age. She was living with her Uncle since both her parents had passed away. Then one day her Uncle takes her on a trip, and sells her to a brothel. Her Uncle is an opium addict and needed the money for debt, and as you can guess – more opium. We stick with Yuliang as she is trained to be a girl in the brothel and finally when she becomes a "working" girl. Then we follow her as she catches the eye of a man named Zanhua. He is able to get her out of the brothel and takes care of her. Unfortunately Zanhua has a government job and it is not looked upon nicely that he is with Yuliang. While Zanhua is married, it is still common practice for men to take on a concubine. So they have a ceremony where they "wed". He takes her to Shanghai and provides a house and money for her. He also teachers her how to read and write.

Soon Yuliang becomes involved in the art world. She is able to be admitted to a local art school where she is seen as one of the top students. She even wins a scholarship to study abroad in France. Yuliang's work is often scandalous; she paints a lot of nudes. This is something not deemed as appropriate, outside of the art world.

This story takes us on a journey of how a young girl was sold to a brothel, but was able to move beyond that and become a famous artist. This book shows how her life was very hard at times, but how she kept going and kept working at her dream.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book. The story kept me interested and I wanted to know how everything was going to end. As with most historical fiction books, I like to just note that while I enjoy history, I don't know a lot of the facts. So this story was interesting and I liked learning about what life was like for a woman in Yuliang's position. However, I can't tell you if everything was historically accurate or not. I suppose you'll have to read it and find out for yourself huh? I will say that I found the story line regarding foot binding interesting. It wasn't the main story, but was something brought up throughout the book. Since I find foot binding interesting, I enjoyed this aspect of the story. Yuliang did go through foot binding, but her husband was one of those against it. So they went through the process to reverse the foot binding.

Please see below for links to other reviews of this book. (If you have read this, please contact me so I can add a link to your review).

Sorry…so far no reviews linked.

( author.408pgs)

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