Title: The Painter from Shanghai
Author: Jennifer Cody Epstein
Release Date: March 31, 2008
Publisher: W.W, Norton & Co.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Review: TLC Book Tours
Rating: 4 out of 5
From the back cover:
Down the muddy waters of the Yangtze River, through the raucous glamour of prewar Shanghai and the bohemian splendor of 1920s Paris, and back to a China teetering on the brink of revolution: this is the epic story of Pan Yuliang, one of the most talented—and provocative—Chinese artists of the twentieth century.
The Painter from Shanghai is based on the real-life story of Pan Yuliang, a Chinese woman who lived an extraordinary life. She went from being a prostitute to a renowned, albeit controversial, artist who won respect with her provocative paintings. This novel is a fictionalized account of this amazing journey.
The paperback version of The Painter from Shanghai includes an afterword in which the author explains how she first encountered the artwork of Pan Yuliang. She read a brief account of Pan Yuliang’s life and was inspired by it. With her husband’s support, Pan Yuliang’s story became the basis of her first novel. The fact that The Painter from Shanghai is based on a true story makes it even more compelling, knowing that a story such as this is possible.
The Painter from Shanghai is full of wonderful historical details that really make the reader feel as though they are in China. Epstein clearly did a lot of research in order to write this novel. Additionally, the descriptions of Pan Yuliang’s art are wonderful. Epstein took great care to describe these paintings vividly; it is clear that she felt an emotional attachment to Pan Yuliang and wanted to do her and her paintings justice. That bond comes through in the novel, as the reader feels emotionally attached to Pan Yuliang’s success as an artist.
Pan Yuliang herself is a wonderfully drawn character. She is incredibly strong, and lives through horrors that no young girl should have to face. Epstein also portrays Pan Yuliang’s need to be an artist very well. The reader can sense her that painting fulfills some hole within her, something she never thought could be filled due to her awful past.
Admittedly, The Painter from Shanghai is a slow novel. Though Pan Yuliang’s life was an eventful one, this is not a novel of explosions and loud bangs. Instead, it’s a quiet and contemplative novel. As a result, the plot can take some time to advance and sometimes loses its forward momentum.
Thank you to TLC Book Tours for arranging this wonderful tour!