Gwen C. (Clearfield, PA)
A Hundred Flowers
This book drew me in from the first page. The story is told from the perspectives of different characters ( a popular trend, and used to advantage here) and encompasses five months in 1958 with one Chinese family's struggles in the aftermath of the Communist Party's rise to power. I'm no student of Chinese history or politics, but Gail Tsukiyama seamlessly introduced the necessary backstory into her tightly woven, wonderful plot. A momentous misunderstanding of a person's name, father-son relationships, Chinese lore and stories, and much more make for a fascinating read, with a satisfying - yet totally realistic - conclusion. As a language lover I couldn't resist underlining many beautiful and illuminating phrases and I thoroughly enjoyed the occasional Chinese words intermingled in the text. This would be an excellent read for book clubs. My only criticism is I wished for a map - and could not tear myself away from the book to look up locations.
Judith B. (Omaha, Nebraska)
Fails to Deliver
Having enjoyed "Women of the Silk" and being a frequent traveler to China, I was eager to read Tsukiyama's latest. However, the two-dimensional characters failed to engage me, and I really didn't care about the outcome. The book did fulfill my expectations in portraying how devastating the late 1950s were for the people of China. The flow of the plot was awkward due to the short chapters and constant switching of character focus. Fortunately each chapter was designated with the character's name. At times I felt as if I were reading a journalistic account rather than a novel. The book should appeal to readers who enjoy an overview of modern China. It is an appropriate choice for book group discussions as there are many insightful comments about life in China.
Peg S. (Durham, North Carolina)
A Hundred Schools of Thought
The structure of short passages, fully and continuously portraying each character gave a broad view of the of the change in a professor's family's life under Mao TseTung and communism. I considered this a kaleidoscopic view of an educated Chinese family, the changes in their large home and life with the kapoc tree in their courtyard. I loved this book and want to read more by Gail Tsukiyama.
Judy B. (Santa Fe,, NM)
A Hundred Flowers by Gail Tsukiyama
Gail Tsukiyama has done it again---written a most wonderful story. This is what I would call a "gentle" book........a book that "gently" tells you a story and "gently" brings you through some of life's worst moments and "gently" deposits you at the end, leaving you thinking "How wonderful is this story?"
The story starts in the late 50's in China during the Cultural Revolution. A little boy named Tao falls out of a Kapok tree in his courtyard of his house and breaks his leg. Then you find out that his father has been taken away from the home and sent to be "re-educated." The time line of the story is from July, 1958 to November, 1958, but in that time all the characters are are fully sketched and their histories are fully known. The story is told from the viewpoint of several characters: Kai Ying, the mother; Tao, the little boy; Wei, the grandfather; and Song, the Auntie. Also there is a side story of Suyin and her baby, a young 15 year old girl who is taken in by the mother.
The story builds until the grandfather confesses a secret that leads him on a journey and finally his return to the family home.
A beautiful, wonderful, "gentle" story!!!
Beth M. (Scarsdale, NY)
I have loved Gail Tsukiyama's books, especially Samurai's Garden. This one was enjoyable and a quick read but it was definitely not her best. The story takes place during 5 months of China's Cultural Revolution when the father of an ordinary family is taken away for voicing his opinion. The story is told from the perspective of different family members although their voices all have the same tone. Through these characters we learn what happened and how secrets and misunderstandings have been harbored. The most compelling voice is that of a 15 year old homeless, pregnant girl who becomes connected to the family. It is an easy novel to read and the author does bring all the story lines to a purposeful resolution. Having said that, I was left feeling like the depth of the story was missing. It felt more like a Young Adult novel.