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A Hundred Flowers

3.72  ·  Rating Details ·  2,606 Ratings  ·  475 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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Community Reviews

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Feb 15, 2016 Barbara rated it really liked it
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
Jill Furedy
Oct 14, 2012 Jill Furedy rated it liked it
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
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 really liked it
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
Jun 08, 2016 Alena rated it really liked it
Maybe only 3.5, but the writing is just so lovely that I can't help but round up. Coming of age in the difficult times of 1958 China. The alternating narrators start well, adding a good pace to the story, but ultimately, the quick chapters and shifting perspectives prevented me from fully engaging. A pleasant way to spend a couple days, but I suspect this story won't stick with me.
Feb 06, 2013 Marcie rated it liked it
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
Aug 09, 2014 Lorraine rated it really liked it
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
Steven Bennett
Feb 05, 2015 Steven Bennett rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 23, 2016 Lynn rated it really liked it
A beautifully written book about a family trying to survive after the father is sent to a "re-education" labor camp in Maoist China. It is told from multiple POVs which brings each character into sharp focus. Gail Tsukiyama does an exquisite job of telling this tale with heartfelt insight and grace.
Dec 05, 2012 Robin rated it it was amazing
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!
Mar 04, 2016 McKenzie rated it liked it
A Hundred Flowers is about a family in China during Mao's reign, after the father is sent to a reeducation camp for writing a letter critical of the government. Unfortunately the novel's execution did not live up to its promising premise; the narration style is wilted, mostly occurring as thoughts of the main characters instead of through conversation or action. Each character's section sounds exactly the same despite the fact that they vary widely in age and outlook, and the plot is somewhat pr ...more
Nov 24, 2015 Betsy rated it really liked it
This is a charming story of a family in China in the mid-1950s, affected by Mao's 100 Flowers campaign. Apparently, Mao asked for ideas to improve China, and after a period of silence, he got ideas - but found he didn't like them, and sent the sources away to "re-education" camps. In this family, one member is sent away to be "re-educated," and Tsukiyama weaves her story around the family left at home. I have never read Tsukiyama before, but I will return to her writing. I love the way she draws ...more
Nov 07, 2014 Gail rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Dec 12, 2014 Kyle rated it liked it
This book starts of very slow and is fairly boring with a cast that seems to act out of character at every chance they get. There is a distracting amount of repetition since the author chooses to reiterate the action of the previous chapter from a different character's POV at the start of every new chapter. The language is unimpressive and basic with flat description and bland imagery. Really, on the surface, there is not much to this novel.

But somewhere around page 140, something happens that m
Kevin J Mackey
Oct 31, 2012 Kevin J Mackey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 22, 2012 Steffi rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 26, 2012 Cynthia Archer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 17, 2012 Radhika rated it liked it
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
Jul 03, 2012 Laurie rated it it was amazing
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;
Mar 01, 2013 Sera rated it liked it
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
Dec 13, 2013 Cindy Leow rated it liked it
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
May 30, 2012 Susan rated it it was ok
Shelves: first-reads
I have loved Gail Tsukiyama's books about China and some of her novels set in Japan, but this one didn't live up to those. The story was nice, but I felt that given the turbulent time, so much more could have happened. It was set during the end of 1958, which was the start of the Great Leap Forward in which 40+ million people starved to death. Besides the grandfather who ran away from home, no one lacked for any food. If the father hadn't been sent away for reeducation, everything else in this b ...more
Jul 14, 2012 Katie rated it it was amazing
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 ☔
Jul 27, 2012 Diane S ☔ rated it liked it
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
Sep 14, 2016 Catherine rated it liked it
3.5 stars. A family is torn apart by Mao's Hundred Flowers Campaign in the late 1950s, and this story quietly shows the reader how the family members reach out to each other despite heartache and words spoken in anger. This is a subtle vignette of life in China under the control of the People's Party.
Aug 10, 2014 Kathleen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: rikke-book-club
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.
Feb 23, 2014 Donna rated it liked it
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.
Jan 24, 2015 Sandy rated it really liked it
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
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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...

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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.” 6 likes
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