A Hundred Flowers: Book summary and reviews of A Hundred Flowers by Gail Tsukiyama

A Hundred Flowers

A Novel

by Gail Tsukiyama

A Hundred Flowers by Gail Tsukiyama X
A Hundred Flowers by Gail Tsukiyama
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  • Published in USA  Aug 2013
    304 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

A powerful novel about an ordinary family facing extraordinary times at the start of the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

China, 1957. Chairman Mao has declared a new openness in society: "Let a hundred flowers bloom; let a hundred schools of thought contend." Many intellectuals fear it is only a trick, and Kai Ying's husband, Sheng, a teacher, has promised not to jeopardize their safety or that of their young son, Tao. But one July morning, just before his sixth birthday, Tao watches helplessly as Sheng is dragged away for writing a letter criticizing the Communist Party and sent to a labor camp for "reeducation."

A year later, still missing his father desperately, Tao climbs to the top of the hundred-year-old kapok tree in front of their home, wanting to see the mountain peaks in the distance. But Tao slips and tumbles thirty feet to the courtyard below, badly breaking his leg.

As Kai Ying struggles to hold her small family together in the face of this shattering reminder of her husband's absence, other members of the household must face their own guilty secrets and strive to find peace in a world where the old sense of order is falling. Once again, Tsukiyama brings us a powerfully moving story of ordinary people facing extraordinary circumstances with grace and courage.

Published in paperback August 2013. First published in hardcover Aug 2012.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"A gripping tale of a father torn from his family for speaking out against Chairman Mao's Communist Party." - O, the Oprah Magazine

"I was following this family almost as though it were my own and stayed all the way to the end of their story." - All Things Considered, NPR

"Bestselling author Gail Tsukiyama takes us back to those times not by painting a panorama but in her thoughtful and forthright way by showing the consequences for one family." - Library Journal

"Tsukiyama's close attention to detail and descriptive language paint a vivid picture of the daily life of Kai Ying and her family. Tsukiyama gently envelops the reader into the quiet sadness that permeates the entire household while weaving in the multiple hardships the family faces under communism. Strength of community; support and love of family, both natural and adopted; and the ability to heal and overcome loss are major themes within the moving novel." - Booklist

This information about A Hundred Flowers shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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Louise J

Powerfully Written!
Gail Tsukiyama has done it once again. This was a powerfully written story. I’ve read every novel she has written and have never been disappointed and this one was no different. I seriously hope there will be a sequel to this story so we can find out conclusively what happens to all the characters in the novel. I would highly recommend this book to anyone. Thank you Ms. Tsukiyama for another most enjoyable read!!

Margaret O. (Bonita Springs, FL)

A Hundred Flowers
This is the first book by GAIL TSUKIYMA that I have read and I look forward to reading more. This story is set in Mao’s communist China in the once prosperous small town of Dongshan.. Life was getting harder all the time for Wei’s family but they were managing under the new rule of the land that began by Mao ten years earlier until one letter changed everything overnight. As Wei’s only son Sheng, a high school history teacher, is sent to a “reeducation” camp we get to know each of the family members over the next year as they lose contact with Sheng and deal with this blow to their everyday lives. Each of the characters shares his thoughts and feelings in their own voice. This writing style allows one to identify with the characters (especially Sheng’s wife and 6 year-old son) as the setting and political situation is described through their eyes. I found the introduction of two additional characters (Suyin and Tian) very thought provoking as it illustrates the idea that people come into our lives for a reason if we are only open to them.
The author does not give us a neat, happy ending but rather tells it like it is with the emphasis on the importance of family relationships and hope to help us accept difficult situations and go forward.

Roni S. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A Hundred Flowers
I have enjoyed reading other books by this author, Gail Tsukiyama. She writes with tenderness. The language is simple and paints a picture. In "A Hundred Flowers," each chapter is the voice of a character. We get a true understanding of each once - their struggles, their courage, and their hopes. Each character has depth.

The book begins in China, 1957, when the country is controlled by Chairman Mao. The book is similar to "Dreams of Joy" by Lisa See.

One of the main characters in "A Hundred Flowers" is an herbalist so anyone who liked
"Mistress of Spices" (India setting) by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, might also like this book. I recommend this to book clubs and anyone interested in Chinese history.

Erica M. (Chicago, IL)

The Gentleness of A Hundred Flowers
I so loved "The Samurai's Garden", that I always want to read everything that Tsukiyama writes. Unfortunately, I have never found a book of hers to rival my favorite. Her writing, her characters, her character development are always lovely. There is a peacefulness and gentleness in the way she approaches her characters and her subject that is just soothing. Although I loved the writing, I did not find myself as captivated by this story as I was by "The Samurai's Garden". Although, it still had it's twist of plot - as did "Samurai's Garden", which is Tsykiyama's hallmark.

Leslie D. (Le Roy, NY)

A Hundred Flowers
This character-driven story is perfect for book groups and will appeal to readers of historical fiction. Told from multiple points of view, it concentrates on one Chinese family during Mao's Hundred Flowers campaign in 1957. Life changes for all the people in the book, and although they long wistfully for the past, they each meet their new challenges in unexpected ways. Although the time frame and themes are very similar to Lisa See's Dreams of Joy, the precise storytelling has a much different feel. A great way to learn Chinese history, I really enjoyed this book.

Karen D. (Dedham, MA)

A Way of Life
A beautiful but sometimes a sad tale of life. I forgot how life could be in another culture at another time.
Precious memories of time gone past is all that some have. These memories keep them going on in life.
I have read other books by this author. I enjoyed this book but my favorite is still The Samurai's Garden.

...22 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Gail Tsukiyama Author Biography

Photo: Kevin Horan

Born to a Chinese mother and a Japanese father in San Francisco, Gail Tsukiyama now lives in El Cerrito, California. She is the bestselling author of seven novels, including The Street of a Thousand Blossoms, Women of the Silk, The Samurai's Garden and A Hundred Flowers, as well as the recipient of the Academy of American Poets Award and the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award. She lives in El Cerrito, California.

Name Pronunciation
Gail Tsukiyama: Tsu-kee-yah-mah

Other books by Gail Tsukiyama at BookBrowse
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