Linda W. (Walnut Creek, CA)
A Hundred Flowers
The first word that comes to mind is quiet. The story centers around a family coming to terms with the new reality that is Communist China under Mao. At the heart of the story is a family.
Three generations of the Lee family live in what used to be the family's villa. Sheng is the husband of Kay Ying, father of Tao and son of Wei. He has been arrested and sent off for reeducation because of a letter sent to Chairman Mao critical of the regime. Dealing with the effects of this arrest, is the plot that drives this story.
While all of the characters are appealing, I would not recommend this title for a book club choice because I don't see much to discuss.
Marjorie H. (Woodstock, GA)
Any book exploring the horror of the Chinese Revolution evokes profound sorrow, disbelief and visceral fear that it could happen anywhere. However, this book failed to produce anything but a desire to finish it. The characters were incredibly one dimensional, the writing - almost juvenile. To take a serious topic and trivialize it to this extent was a profound disappointment.
A Hundred Flowers
I selected this book because friends have been telling me for quite some time to try one of Gail Tsukiyama’s books. As a result, I went into this one with very high expectations and I am afraid that I was disappointed.
I simply could not connect at all with any of the characters, and the book moved at an excruciatingly slow place. I have no problem with books where the action is limited, and the work is essentially a character study. Here, though, because the characters felt so remote, I was left with a book where nothing really happened, and I had no feeling for the people who were ruminating on their lives. I think perhaps I was expecting a book more along the lines of those written by Lisa See, and A Hundred Flowers was not in that vein.
I don’t mean to imply at all that this is a bad book -- it is very well written in fact. It just was not for me. I will be curious to see if this book is an anomaly, or if those who love her other books love this one as well.
Annette S. (Duluth, GA)
A Hundred Flowers
Another winner from Gail Tsukiyama. The story is told from multiple points of view and you learn about the daily life and culture of a Chinese family during Mao's Communist regime. This is an enlightening novel that shares insight into the struggles of an ordinary Chinese family during the 1950"s. With no hesitation it is a 5 star read.
Susan Q. (East Williston, NY)
As with every other novel by this great author, I was hooking from the beginning. Character development, plot and story line are on target. The ending wasn't as developed as would have hoped, but don't let deter you from picking up this book!
Carole A. (Denver, CO)
A Bouquet of Flowers
It is always exciting for another Gail Tsukiyama to appear! I enjoy her skill with language and the ability to build a plot and characters that draw you into the book from the beginning. A Hundred Flowers was no exception to this expectation. It offered a bouquet of language, setting, plot and characters. Yes, I always want more information about the characters and the situations. One test for me of an enjoyable book is finishing and wanting more - the next chapter. Perhaps the next book. The facts about China at this period and time were interesting and gave a good insight as to what the citizens were enduring. Certainly the story was specific to China at this time but in a broader sense many of the emotions and situations encountered by the characters held true for other people in other countries. Tsukiyama gives a true vision of what extended family should mean and how it enhances life for the very young thru the golden years. A Hundred Flowers would make a good Book Club selection for the discussions of China as well as how the personal life situations encountered are handled.
Diane L. (Huntsville, AL)
Engaging novel but left me hanging
A Hundred Flowers is a simple yet elegant novel set in China during the months of July through November of 1958. The book begins with the young boy Tao and his mishaps from climbing a tree. The author uses the framework of an unfolding flower to advance the story--Tao first speaks, then his mother, grandfather, onward to close friends, to strangers who intersect the growing story. Having different people speak about the developing stories is very engaging.
My problem with the book is that I feel the author has established a wonderful "tree" structure for the book but has failed to fully develop the "flowers". Only Tao and his grandfather Wei are given below the surface character development. Everyone else is a bare "branch".
The novel does resolve the major question of the story, what happened to Tao's father, but I felt the story left many questions about the characters (including Tao!) unanswered. It was like the author decided the tree was sketched and that was all she had to do; we would enjoy speculating on the rest.
If you like a light read and are comfortable with open endings, you will enjoy this book. If you are like me and don't like loose endings, I'd advise you to look elsewhere.