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Daughters of the Flower Fragrant Garden

Two Sisters Separated by China's Civil War

by Zhuqing Li

Daughters of the Flower Fragrant Garden by Zhuqing Li X
Daughters of the Flower Fragrant Garden by Zhuqing Li
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    Jun 2022, 368 pages

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There are currently 24 reader reviews for Daughters of the Flower Fragrant Garden
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Marganna K. (Edmonds, WA)

Two Sisters - Strong, Brave, Determined
China - Taiwan...how often have I heard these names or caught a news bulletin about one of these countries? Many times, I reflect, but until I read this book about two sisters separated by events that lasted decades, I had no understanding on a heartfelt level.

This is a beautifully written non-fiction book that follows two sisters through years of separation. Author Li weaves a magnificent story line of each sister with the major backdrop of what is happening historically in China and Taiwan and the impart the political currents have on them & their family.

The book tells the story of real people surviving in harsh, unspeakable situations & enduring a lifetime of separation but never losing sight of what is important.
What would have greatly enhanced the book for me would have been the inclusion of 3 things: 1) a clear map of China & Taiwan, 2) a historical timeline with political data, leaders, 3) a family tree.

I'd love to see this historical/political timeline to help me learn more about China's ever-changing dynamic history. I made my own family tree when I started the book. I think it helped me "know" the family members better.

This is a book I will recommend to others & suggest for our book club.
Sharon P. (San Diego, CA)

Beautiful writing, beautiful story
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The writing was beautiful and rich in cultural flavor, emotion and detail. The two women highlighted were amazing women who work exceedingly hard through a very traumatic time in history.

Out of all the books I've read set in China, this one gave me the most abundant sense of what life was really like during China's Civil war and the behind the bamboo curtain.

Highly recommended!
Peggy K. (Frederick, CO)

Two Sisters and the Forces of History
Daughters of the Flower Fragrant Garden is a moving tale of sisters torn apart by the forces of history and an engaging exploration of mainland China and Taiwan during a time of upheaval. Zhuqing Li ties in the history of her family's home in the exotic Flower Fragrant Garden with the ending of WWII and the rise of the Communist Party under Mao Zedong. The tragedy begins when the author's aunt Jun is stranded on the island of Jinmen while visiting a friend and Communist forces seize her hometown…where her beloved sister, Hong, resides. Thus begins a 33-year parallel history of sisters separated by historical forces beyond their control. Blending the personal with the political, Li is a sensitive chronicler as she invites the reader into the pathos of her family's intriguing story. It is ultimately a story of two ambitious, intelligent, and talented women who make the best of their lives. Highly recommend!
Cassandra W. (Alameda, CA)

Absolutely Beautiful Prose
This beautifully written book spans continents and extends across a century. Set against the backdrop of a time of great political, social, and cultural change in China, the author tells the indelible story of her aunts, two sisters whose lives demonstrated courage, perseverance, and overarching love of family despite separation and loss. Written with an unforgettable poignancy and intimacy, I highly recommend this book.
Darlene G. (Allegany, NY)

Compelling, Kind, and Nuanced
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The juxtaposition of the two sisters' lives, separated as young women, provided a way of seeing the split Chinese experience (Taiwan and Mainland China; Nationalist and Communist) with appreciation for the gifts and limits of the political situations, the characters' development, and the ways in which family binds and disappoints. Zhuqing Li did an exceptional job conveying the nuances of full characters and historical facts. Her reflections were clear and kind. And best of all, perhaps because Zhuqing Li acknowledged her initial lack of skill in crafting creative nonfiction, she did the years of work necessary to create a narrative that makes you want to keep reading and an ending that satisfies.
Melissa S. (Rowland, NC)

History on a Personal Level
Coming from a background of zero knowledge of the history of China's civil war and subsequent horrors of the crimes against humanity, I found Daughters of the Flower Fragrant Garden both heart wrenching and fascinating. I found myself over and over again saying, "Is this true? Did this really happen? Am I reading historical fiction?"
To have a biographical story telling of two sisters who, by chance, find themselves on opposite sides (physically and literally) of a war that ripped families apart, killed millions, forced abortions and sterilization, and countless other atrocities, gives this major historical event a human touch that quite literally left me stunned and lost in thought after many "late night" readings.
Author, Zhuqing Li, skillfully tells the story of life (through the lens of two educated sisters) for millions during the Cultural Revolution. Reading the history of China's split and subsequent fallout can, like many other historical war reports, become very factual without the true human element. Not so in Li's account. Since she is a direct descendent of the main characters, she has very successfully conveyed the "humanness" of a cruel, humiliating, and gut-wrenching period of Chinese history.
Li's novel will definitely not disappoint and is worth every second spent lost in its pages.
Carol N. (San Jose, CA)

A celebration of life. . .
In "Daughters of the Flower Fragrant Garden," Zhuqing Li shares a deeply human story about her aunts, Jun and Hong, who lived through the consequences of the notorious mainland China/Taiwan's historic split, a time of traumatic change and unmatched resilience in Asia.

The sisters were the offspring of a southern Chinese family, each other's best friend, and grew up in the 1930s days of Old China prior to the political revolution that changed China forever. By chance, both ladies found themselves separated. June in Taiwan is married to a National general and living among fellow exiles at odds with the new regime. On the mainland, Hong is forced to disavow her family's background and her sister's decision, in order to continue her career as a doctor. She is forced to tolerate several waves of re-education by working in exile in very remote areas of the backcountry.

Both ladies were faced with tense decisions as they go forth and forge careers and families midst this upheaval. With determination and ambition on the part of both women, Jun established several important trading companies while Hong becomes one of the celebrated Chinese doctors.

This riveting and deeply personal account is a celebration of these remarkable ladies' legacies.
Claire M. (Sarasota, FL)

China Separation
To read this book, one must reflect on human endurance, choices, failed government policies, women's search for their place in the world against odds everywhere and the consequences of it all.

Two sisters, separated by the most unimagined of circumstances live through the cultural revolution in China on opposing lands. The ideological differences are made clear and through all the years of separation when the chance to see one another and have the family unite are finally mastered by the sister who was never able to return to mainland China figures the way to do it and takes massive steps to gain the documents to accomplish it. They unite as family, but the years of living through different political systems remain.

What do we do to achieve our goals and make that more important than the greater good? What do we do caught on the other side wanting to see our families but having to make another way to live?
Essentially, we must acknowledge the failures of both ideological systems and how a family separated by accidental forces of governmental policy manages their separate ways to survive.
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