Tuesday, June 30, 2009

BLOG TOUR: The Painter From Shanghai by Jennifer Cody Epstein

From TLC Book Tours:

Reminiscent of Memoirs of a Geisha, a re-imagining of the life of Pan Yuliang and her transformation from prostitute to post-Impressionist.

Down the muddy waters of the Yangtze River and into the seedy backrooms of “The Hall of Eternal Splendor,” through the raucous glamour of prewar Shanghai and the bohemian splendor of 1920s Paris, and back to a China ripped apart by civil war and teetering on the brink of revolution: this novel tells the story of Pan Yuliang, one of the most talented
—and provocative—Chinese artists of the twentieth century.

Jennifer Cody Epstein’s epic brings to life the woman behind the lush, Cezannesque nude self-portraits, capturing with lavish detail her life in the brothel and then as a concubine to a Republican official who would ultimately help her find her way as an artist. Moving with the tide of historical events, The Painter from Shanghai celebrates a singularly daring painting style—one that led to fame, notoriety, and, ultimately, a devastating choice: between Pan’s art and the one great love of her life.

I am always fascinated by stories that are based on real people and The Painter From Shanghai is a very strong example. I feel like it would be harder to write a story where there are some facts involved, you can only know so many facts so you have to create the story in such a way that you can string the actual facts together to make sense. That takes talent.

It was really empowering to read the story of Pan Yuliang. From being sold into prostitution to attempting the close to impossible to achieve her dreams of being an artist and a "woman artist" at that. Pan Yuliang couldn't and doesn't give up. I loved seeing her evolve and turn into a strong and confident woman. She was so meek and innocent when her uncle sold her into prostitution and to see the woman she becomes is amazing.

It was insane to me to read what a struggle there was for Pan Yuliang to be an artist and create the art she wanted to create. Nowadays at least in America most people wouldn't bat an eyelash at a nude portrait but in Pan Yuliang's time it was beyond scandalous. It's just so crazy to me. If I had to face that kind of abuse to just create art I'm sure I would have given up. We are so lucky that we don't have to deal with that in 2009 in America.

While the art related parts were obviously my favorite I really enjoyed the book as a whole. All the people that come in and out of Pan Yuliang's life to either help or harm her, they were all a part of what shaped her in the end. Pan Zanhua, the man that becomes her husband and sort of guardian is an interesting character as well, watching him grow and change with the politics of the time. I also really liked the passages when Pan Yuliang went to live with Pan Zanhua and his first wife. Really interesting.

Overall a really interesting story based on a real life!

4/5 Stars

Review copy provided by publisher for blog tour

Visit the author's website here!


  1. I'm getting more and more eager to read this book!
    Will try to read it before I leave to Shanghai myself, but do have quite a pile of Chinese related books to read ;-). Thanks for sharing, always interested in the multicultural field!

  2. I absolutely loved this book, and I'm glad to see you enjoyed it, too. My review is here.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  3. I think this book looks wonderful. The are related parts sound appealing to me too.

  4. Great review. I'm definitely putting this on my list - it looks like a good fine

  5. Anonymous9:35 AM

    Alea, I'm so glad you enjoyed this book! Thanks so much for all the time you put into reading and reviewing it. Your review is excellent. I agree it seems harder for an author to have to string together a few 'real pieces' into their story than to completely fictionalize it!

  6. Glad you found it interesting :) sound like a great read!

  7. Her story was amazing, wasn't it? Makes you wonder if you could survive the same.

  8. This sounds fascinating!


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