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A Hundred Flowers

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  2,230 ratings  ·  418 reviews
A powerful new 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 jeopardiz
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published August 7th 2012 by St. Martin's Press
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185th out of 218 books — 21 voters
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7th out of 7 books — 1 voter

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Community Reviews

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Gail Tsukiyama, whose heritage is a Japanese father and a Chinese mother, has penned many novels capturing these cultures. Rather than give a complete description of this book, I will attempt to further discuss some salient points.

This tale is set in 1955, during the Chinese "Cultural Revolution". I have purposely added quotation marks here to stress the farcical/traumatic nature of this period. It is illustrated well when Wei, the elderly grandfather of the family highlighted in this story, ser
I received this book through Goodreads First Reads.

In 1957 Chairman Mao issued an order for all the intellectuals and artists in the community to come forward so that China could become a stronger country. "Let a hundred flowers bloom; let a hundred schools of thought contend." While this was seen as cautious good news, Sheng was arrested for sending a letter speaking out against the Communist Party and was sent to a reeducation facility. He leaves behind his professor father, Wei, his herb heal
Sep 03, 2012 Lex rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: history lovers
I won this novel from a Goodreads giveaway and am so happy that I did.
What a beautiful, moving story that flowed and ebbed at the perfect times.
In Communist China, we read about a family who is suffering from losing the husband of the home to a "reeducation" camp. They say he wrote a letter during the Hundred Letters campaign that condemed Mao and the Communist Party. However, Kai Ying, his wife, cannot imagine why her husband would ever write such a letter or put his family is jeopardy. Who wr
Jill Furedy
This is such a quiet, subtle book that I don't quite know what to say about it. I think Kai Ying is the character I felt I knew the best. Though Tao and Wei tell their stories too, I felt like Tao's revolved around his injury, Wei's revolved around his journey and guilt, but Kai Ying's revolved around her lost husband, her herbal healing, and her relationships with every other character. But maybe I just identified with the female character more. I wish we learned more about Suyin, her family, h ...more
In 1953 Chairman Mao Zedong launched a five year plan in China to collectivize agriculture and nationalize industry in hopes of raising revenues to finance industry and repay debts for Russian aid. There was a lot of dissent among the people because of shortages of food and goods, yet very little open discussion among the people. Knowing that the plan was not working, and to gain the support of the educated classes, Mao launched what was known as Hundred Flowers campaign in 1957. In his address ...more
I have been a fan of Gail Tsukiyama's for many years, so when I saw this book at the library, I was eager to read it. I appreciate her simple yet beautifully descriptive writing style, and I usually enjoy the slower pace that is common in her books. This book, however, fell a little short.

This story, of a family living in China in the 1950s under the rule of Chairman Mao, helped me understand the difficulties that ordinary people faced at that time with food, shelter and health. But I found the
Steven Bennett
A very easy book that just kept carrying me through the story of the characters lives. The dramas they all faced in 1950s China remained intriguing, hopeful, and filled with both small & greater lessons of life. I admired the family's heroic ability to stay strong in the face of so many obstacles & loss. The love they maintained for each other was beautifully expressed by the author, being very realistic & genuine. I found the book to be filled with a vast collection of historical &a ...more
A beautifully written story. I loved all the characters. It takes place in 1958 in China - life after Mao and the communists came into power. It is hard to imagine what it must have been like to live/grow up in a place where once-valued professors and artists -overnight- were stifled or, even worse, sent to work in mines because they dared to voice their opinions on how their government should treat people. Makes one appreciate life in the US!
I was all set to give this three stars - it was fairly enjoyable but a bit bland, I was finding. The characters were described in a bit of a distant way, and I felt the reader was being kept at arm's length, as it were, from their emotions. I could appreciate in an intellectual way what they were feeling, but there was a lot more telling than showing and it felt distant and bland.

Then came the surprising journey that happens towards the end of the story. I can't say much about it without spoile
Kevin J Mackey
This is a quiet book where the larger events happening in China in the 50s intersect and impact three generations of a family trying to make their way in their world.

The "inciting event", the taking away of the father for re-education through hard labor, has already taken place. The story of "what happens then" unfolds layer by layer as seen and told from the viewpoints of the other family members - the young son, the mother, the grandfather, the aunt - a woman who has come to be part of the fam
I received this book as a First Reads Giveaway. It was a really fantastic book.

The story is about a man, Sheng, who wrote a letter speaking out against the Communist Party. He was sent to a labor camp as punishment. You learn about his wife Kai Ying, son Tao, father Wei, and neighbor Auntie Song.

I liked the way the chapters were set up. Each one was from a different characters point of view. A lot of times the author had you fill in the blanks between POV's which was nice. As a reader you someti
Kathleen Hagen
A Hundred Flowers, by Gail Tsukiyama, Narrated by Simon Vance, produced by MacMillan Audio, downloaded from

This is the story of a Chinese family whose father and grandfather were part of the educated class in 1957 when Mao Tse Tung said that there should be “a hundred flowers” meaning people should feel free to criticize constructively the Communist party. But when people did, he had them arrested and sent for “re-education to labor camps. They arrested Shenn for sending such a lett
A Hundred Flowers – Gail Tsukiyama
4 stars

“She marveled at nature's resiliency, its sheer stubbornness to survive.”

Those are the thoughts of Auntie Song, one of the characters in Gail Tsukiyama’s newest book. It is the story of an extended family told from five different perspectives through a year of many changes. Some of the challenges they face are common to many lives; a child’s accident, grief at the death of a spouse, the birth of a child. Other concerns are unique to the cataclysmic socia
Cynthia Archer
I received a copy of the e-galley of this book through Shelf Awareness. I historic fiction and especially am excited about this title. I will review it on GoodReads.
I really enjoyed this story. Its real appeal is that it is about an ordinary family. The time is 1958 and Chairman Mao and his army are in charge of China. The China of the past is gone and a much more stark and dismal one remains. The father of the family has been taken away to a re-education camp because of political crimes. His ab
A wonderful heartwarming story of family, love and sacrifice.

The story is about the time when Chairman Mao declares that there is a new openness to China . Let the hundred flowers bloom, let hubndred schools of thought contend. Many intellectuals fear this is new plot by the government. Kai Ying husband, Sheng a headstrong teacher promises to keep out of it, but still was dragged away one morning for cruticising the Communist party much to the dismay of his wife Kai Ying, father Wei and the son
In 1957, Mao Zedong declared “Let a hundred flowers bloom; let a hundred schools of thoughts contend”, inviting the intellectuals to speak their thoughts for the good of the country. Of course it was a trap; those who spoke out against the regime were arrested and sent to work camps for ‘reeducation’. This is what has happened to Sheng, before the story starts.

The story is told from multiple points of view, switching between Kai Ying, Sheng’s wife, the herbal healer; Tao, their school age son;
3.5 stars; I really enjoyed this book about one's family experience in late 1950s China, just prior to the cultural revolution. The name of the book, A Hundred Flowers, is based upon a campaign that Mao developed to get the Chinese citizenry to provide their thoughts and ideas about the Chinese government. Of course, it's easy to foresee what would happen when anyone did so. The results of one's speaking freely is one of the themes in this book, but there is much more as well.

Overall, I think t
Cindy Leow
I liked it, but that's as far as it goes.
It didn't truly evoke a very powerful emotion from me, though I did enjoy reading it and I emphathised with some of the characters, especially Wei - he was one of the most real and raw characters in the book. The themes of loss, regret, grief and heartbreak conflated nicely and were very prominent throughout his story and his metaphors.
Gail Tsukiyama wrote in pretty simple English, but the style of her writing was indeed graceful and lissome, as if they
Katie Metzger
Chairman Mao declared “let a hundred flowers bloom; let a hundred schools of thought contend” to encourage Chinese citizens with viable criticisms to open their thoughts of change to the government. Unfortunately for most of the outspoken population, this then turned into a motion for the re-education of Chinese citizens in 1957. This story follows a family whose patriarch has been forcibly removed for writing a letter to Chairman Mao describing changes that must be made and the way this effects ...more
Diane S.✨
This is a story about a family caught up in the cultural revolution of 1957under the leadership of Chairman Mao. After losing Sheng, father and husband, taken for the purposes of reeducation, Kai Ying must do what she can for the family that is left. This is a relatively simple story in times that were anything but and it is told well. Although many Chinese dies during this time, mainly of starvation, food did not seem to be much of a problem with this family. Told from five different viewpoints ...more
I am again impressed with Gail Tsukiyama. Not knowing too much about Chinese politics in the 1950s had me initially intimidated but the book is really about human relationships, personal struggles, forgiveness, love and hope. I felt transported to China by this descriptive book and was so captivated I read the entire book in one day.
This was a super quick read. I liked this book; it was a sweet story. It had strokes of eloquence and the resolution was nicely sewed up at the end. I did the audio on this, and the Chinese grandfather sounded so much like Dumbledore, it was a little distracting to be thinking about Harry Potter while listening to this.
Set in China in 1958, a family waits in increasing pain a year after Sheng was taken and sent to a faraway labor camp to be “reeducated” for a letter he wrote criticizing the Communist Party. The chapters are told from the perspectives of each of the characters: Sheng’s wife, Kai Ying, whose skill as an herbalist provides the family their income in his absence; Tao, their 7-year-old son who suffers a severe broken leg falling from the kapok tree in their yard; Sheng’s father, Wei, a widower and ...more
Stephanie Anze
Tao is only seven years old when he falls off the kapok tree in his yard, breaking his leg. He climbed up the tree so he could recall a story his father told him prior to his arrest. Sheng, Tao's father, was arrested and sent to a labor camp for "reeducation" after being accused of writing a letter against Mao's regime and has not been home for almost a year. Tao and his family are left to wonder wether Sheng is guilty, but more than that, when he will return. Meanwhile, they have to deal with h ...more
a simple, lovely story that was perfectly told.

This is a story that could really have been set almost any where in the world. It tells the tale of a family separated by the imprisonment of a young father for writing a letter of dissonance to the Chinese government. This same story could happen today or fifty years ago with a young teacher is sentenced to hard labor for telling the truth in a world that no longer respects personal freedoms or liberties. The problem is that this young father and h
Tsukiyama once again imparts us with everyday life of 1958 China. The storytelling is subtle and quiet, but with broiled emotion hidden just underneath the surface.

This story is slow moving and gentle, and makes you really appreciate the small kindnesses that we often overlook on a daily basis. Not my favorite book regarding this time period in China, but still a good read.
I so enjoyed this novel - it is exactly what I've been looking for and find most engaging, historical fiction. Its a story about a family in set in China in 1958, during the Cultural Revolution. The family's father is suddenly taken away and placed in a re-education camp. The narrative continues focusing on his wife, young son, and father, and how they live on thru their fears, guilt, and challenges without him.
In the author's own words: " in historical fiction there is a richness of discovery
China in the late 1950s.

Seven year old Tao falls from the giant kapok tree in his family's courtyard.

Finding her son broken at the foot of the tree, Kai Ying -- the community herbalist -- is overcome by the worst possible fear.

A Hundred Flowers is the story of the Lee family, their hopes, struggles, and tragedies in Chairman Mao's China.
Feb 22, 2014 Leeann rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2014
I really enjoyed this novel. I loved the style. The novel is in sections, and the narration rotates through all of the characters.

I thought it was a great story, and that the author told it well. Sheng has been taken away to a reeducation camp because of a letter written during Mao's hundred flower campaign. The story of waiting to hear from him, and his hopeful return, is told by his wife, father, son, 'auntie' and a girl (who hasn't met him) but is now living with the family. It felt very hon
Kerri Adams
This was a lovely book. Not my favorite of hers but still enjoyable. Its a gentle read and as usual I learned a lot about a specific time in Chinese history. This took place during Mao's take over. Anyone who enjoys books that take place in Asian cultures will enjoy this read.
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Born to a Chinese mother and a Japanese father in San Francisco, Gail Tsukiyama now lives in El Cerrito, California. Her novels include Women of the Silk (1991), The Samurai's Garden (1995), Night of Many Dreams (1998), The Language of Threads (1999), Dreaming Water (2002), and The Street of a Thousand Blossoms (2007).
More about Gail Tsukiyama...
The Samurai's Garden Women of the Silk The Street of a Thousand Blossoms The Language of Threads Night of Many Dreams

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“Wei cleared his throat and said, “Have you heard the saying `The wise adapt themselves to circumstances, as water molds itself to the pitcher’? It seems I’ve been the pitcher most of my life. I’ve forgotten how to be fluid. It feels as if I’m finally learning now,” he said.” 4 likes
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