What readers think of Daughters of the Flower Fragrant Garden, plus links to write your own review.

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Read-Alikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

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
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jun 2022, 368 pages

    Jun 20, 2023, 368 pages


  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers
Buy This Book

About this Book


Page 1 of 4
There are currently 26 reader reviews for Daughters of the Flower Fragrant Garden
Order Reviews by:

Write your own review!

Anthony Conty

So much history I didn't know
“Daughters of the Flower Fragrant Garden” by Zhuqing Li tells the story of two sisters who end up on opposite sides of the Chinese Civil War of the 1930s but still succeed in life. However, like any war book worth its salt, you do not take sides and recognize the hardship of finding out that you and your sibling now live in separate countries for reasons that are neither your fault nor your concern.

Jun takes a teaching job in Taiwan and sides with the Nationalists, while her sister Hong marries a bigwig in the Communist Party and cuts off all communication with Jun, as remaining neutral is not an option. Both women start as somewhat apolitical, but Jun finds an opportunity to write speeches for a top member of the National Party, and leaving the island becomes an impossibility during the war.

Min and Jun’s marriage becomes complicated when Min’s son from a previous marriage returns after showing signs of sympathizing with the Nationalists and receiving a beating because of it, putting his father in danger for giving him money. On the other hand, Hong saves lives and becomes a national hero until people learn of her connections to someone from the “other side” and use that as an excuse to ransack her home.

The Nationalist/Communist debate could go on all day, and the paranoid “re-education” system of the Communists will frighten you. Still, you cannot primarily relate to a world where someone takes someone’s medical license away, forcing them to farm. So Jun and Hong find ways to make their situation work for them, which ends up more inspiring than sad in a land where women have limited opportunities.

I did not know much about this conflict; it shocked me that some of my friends’ parents lived through it. But unfortunately, the United States did not seem to have a complete grasp on what side they were on at times. Jun and Hong make great heroes, though, as they find ways to help out their fellow beings in a time when their superiors want to dictate their every move. Those looking for success with business and medical innovation will find inspiration.

GREAT book
An incredible, fascinating story. I couldn't put it down. Not a quick or easy book to read but full of fascinating characters and important historical events.
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.

Become a Member

Join BookBrowse today to start discovering exceptional books!

Find out more

Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Where Coyotes Howl
    Where Coyotes Howl
    by Sandra Dallas
    Where Coyotes Howl may appear to be a classically conventional historical novel — a wide-eyed ...
  • Book Jacket: After the Miracle
    After the Miracle
    by Max Wallace
    Many people have heard one particular story about Helen Keller—how the saintly teacher, Annie ...
  • Book Jacket: The Lost Wife
    The Lost Wife
    by Susanna Moore
    The Lost Wife is a hard-hitting novella based in part on a white settler named Sarah Wakefield's ...
  • Book Jacket
    Firekeeper's Daughter
    by Angeline Boulley
    Voted 2021 Best Young Adult Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers

    Angeline Boulley's young adult ...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
The First Conspiracy
by Brad Meltzer & Josh Mensch
A remarkable and previously untold piece of American history—the secret plot to kill George Washington

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Pieces of Blue
    by Holly Goldberg Sloan

    A hilarious and heartfelt novel for fans of Maria Semple and Emma Straub.

Win This Book
Win Girlfriend on Mars

30 Copies to Give Away!

A funny and poignant debut novel that skewers billionaire-funded space travel in a love story of interplanetary proportions.



Solve this clue:

S I F A R Day

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.