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The Language of Threads

4.09  ·  Rating Details ·  5,693 Ratings  ·  323 Reviews
Readers of Women of the Silk never forgot the moving, powerful story of Pei, brought to work in the silk house as a girl, grown into a quiet but determined young woman whose life is subject to cruel twists of fate, including the loss of her closest friend, Lin. Now we finally learn what happened to Pei, as she leaves the silk house for Hong Kong in the 1930s, arriving with ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published September 21st 2000 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published September 8th 1999)
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Community Reviews

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I liked Women of the Silk much more than The Language of Threads . Maybe it was because I missed the primary relationship and the struggle against a clearly identified power to this book which was more about Pei's struggle to gain independence in a new place while simultaneously caring for an orphan and then survive the onset of war. I was left wanting more depth in how the characters thought about the impending and then current conflict with the Japanese invaders. There was the beginning of som ...more
Jun 15, 2010 Bobbi rated it liked it
The Language of Threads is the sequel to Women of the Silk, which should be read first. The story refers to events that happened in the first book, so I plan to go back and read it. Gail Tsukiyama writes well, providing insight into the customs in China and the lives of Chinese women.

This is the story of a young Chinese girl, Pei, who leaves China and flees to Hong Kong after the invasion of Japan during the Second World War. She worked in a silk factory in a small Chinese town (the first story)
Rachel Brand
Jul 31, 2009 Rachel Brand rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Rachel by: Karen Andersen Miller
Read in Germany, July 2009.

* enjoyed a lot more than the prequel - the plot was more fluid, the characters (especially Pei) were more realistic and better developed, and the writing was also better (although there was a typo on the back cover!). All signs that Tsukiyama's writing had improved immensley.
* I liked the ending of this book more - it seemed to be rounded up better than in the first book.
* still a lot of sadness - Mrs F. and the orphan girl. I understood that it was realistic
May 15, 2016 Randee rated it really liked it
Shelves: asian-books
I very much enjoyed this story of Pei and Ji Shen, two Chinese girls whose family's gave them up to work at a silk factory. When the Japanese invaded, Pei and Ji Shen barely escaped to Hong Kong with their lives, leaving behind all that they knew. When I read stories like this, my first gut reaction is to feel blessed that I have not had to experience such hardship winning a random lottery not of my making to have been born in the United States of Swedish/Polish heritage. My second most prominen ...more
Deanna Drai Turner
Apr 02, 2012 Deanna Drai Turner rated it it was amazing
I don't grant 5 stars very often. This book duo deserves it. The first book is "Women of the Silk" the second "The Language of Threads." As I first engaged in this adventure, I stepped off with trepidation. I wondered if it would be yet another story of the horrors of how the Chinese treat their women. Foot binding. Discarding female babies. Slave trade. Dog worth. Etc...I have read many of these stories in my day, and just wasn't sure my heart was in a place to endure more of that just now. And ...more
Jun 08, 2008 Marie rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in women's friendships, or Asian cultures
Last year I got the opportunity to hear Tsukiyama speak at a banquet for the Willamette Writers in Portland. She is half Japanese-American and half Chinese-American, and most of her books center around Japan or China. After hearing her speak, I read her first novel, "Women of the Silk" (about women who worked in the silk factories in China) and loved it. "The Language of Threads" picks up where "Women of the Silk" left off.

I can see that Tsukiyama's writing has only improved in the interval betw
Mar 01, 2016 Mady rated it really liked it
This is the sequel to "Women of the Silk", where we keep following Pei's life. However, didn't find this as brilliant as the first one. Somehow the characters didn't get so clear in my mind and they made me feel as if they were broadly the same from the first book, but undercover of a different name! Regardless, found this very engaging and could keep on reading about Pei!

Probably for the benefit of readers who have not read the "Women of the Silk" some of its plot is explained in this book, but
Nov 18, 2014 Melinda rated it really liked it
Now we finally learn what happened to Pei, as she leaves the silk house for Hong Kong in the 1930s, arriving with a young orphan, Ji Shen, in her care. Her first job, in the home of a wealthy family, ends in disgrace, but soon Pei and Ji Shen find a new life in the home of Mrs. Finch, a British ex-patriate who welcomes them as the daughters she never had. Their idyllic life is interrupted, however, by war, and the Japanese occupation.

Pei, a character and a women you will not forget. Her life is
Apr 16, 2012 Karyl rated it liked it
Shelves: bookstore-finds, 2012
This novel is a sequel to Women of the Silk, which I haven't read. It opens in the late 1930s, after Pei and Ji Shen have escaped their silk-working village in China and made their way to Hong Kong. The book is full of Pei's reminisces about her earlier life, so one gets a sense of the previous book, but I felt that there were too many instances that referred to Women of the Silk and made me feel like I should have read it first. I prefer a sequel that can stand more on its own. The book gives a ...more
Jul 31, 2016 Patsey added it
Shelves: 2016
Gail Tsukiyama is perhaps my favourite writer. She writes with gentleness yet strength and power of women making a life in the shitty circumstances they (we) find ourselves in. Her books are set in China, Hong Kong, Japan during times of conflict. And she writes of finding the beauty despite the struggle. Thank you for sharing your talent and your heart.
P. 135. "It's a strange thing Caroline (Mrs. Finch). It wasn't until I simply gave up everything that I suddenly felt free."
Delicious Strawberry
My only complaint is that this book wasn't published in one volume with 'Women of the Silk', because both books didn't really feel like separate tales. Rather, they felt more like two halves of one tale, especially because of the way 'Women of the Silk' ended and this one begun. Still, it was a lovely and poignant tale as Pei has to deal with the tumult of the Japanese invading China (this book starts in the late 1930's) and shows that even no matter how tenacious and determined some people are ...more
Mar 10, 2008 Diane rated it it was ok
I think I would have like this better if my expectations had not been so high, but after reading Tsukiyama's "Samurai's Garden," her "Language of Threads" was a disappointment. It is set in pre War II and then during WW II Hong Kong but there is not much subtlety here - it is Japanese Devils versus the Chinese. The protagonist is a silk worker and I craved more information about this interesting dying profession - there were hints about the silk sisterhood and the vows of the silk sisterhood but ...more
Jenny Yates
Jan 02, 2015 Jenny Yates rated it liked it
This novel, set during the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong, is a continuation of the story of the silk worker Pei, begun in “Women of the Silk”. In this one, she moves to Hong Kong with her young ward, Ji Shen, and makes a life for herself first as a domestic and then as a seamstress. The novel does a good job of depicting the discomfort, insecurity and fear of wartime for a civilian population.

The novel is written with straightforward simplicity, eschewing any novelistic tricks. It feels real e
Jun 04, 2009 Carol rated it liked it
This is a sequel to Women of the Silk, which I haven't read. However, there is plenty of reminiscence of the past to have a good idea of the previous book. It takes place in China and Hong in the 1930s and 1940s, during the Japanese invasion/occupation. So, life is extremely difficult. What makes it liveable is the women's commitment to and caring for each other: Women who, as children were made leave their families to work in the silk factories, who have known hard work and deprivation and have ...more
May 05, 2014 Kelly rated it it was amazing
Beautiful! That's all I can say, the follow up to Women of The Silk is just as well written , engaging and at times emotional is WOTS. The only blip was no knowing what became of Chen Long my favourite 'sister' who was so feisty and courageous leading the women through protesting against the poor working conditions of the silk workers. I'm truely a fan of historical fiction and this author, I will be on a hunt for the rest of her books and any similar.

The start, middle and end were all enjoyabl
Sep 23, 2014 Marialyce rated it liked it
This was a very lovely story told in a lovely gentle manner.
Aug 25, 2015 Donia rated it it was ok
I wanted very much to like this book and I mean no disrespect to the author. Unfortunately, The Language of Threads is a flat, one-dimensional story. There are no surprises, no twists and turns to interest the reader. The main character, Pei is not developed at all in this novel; you learn no more about her than you had when the novel started. I have visited China and adore learning about its history and culture and that is the only reason I stuck with this story. I found the plot drifting point ...more
Diana Nagy
If you haven't read a book by author Gail Tsukiyama, you are missing out! This book was amazing! I started out reading it just to read it because I love just about every book in the world and also because I just couldn't put it down once I picked it up. I love how strong Pei is in this book. Even though sometimes she probably really didn't want to be. This book was so loving, so touching, so inspirational. Now that I have read this book by Gail, I want to read more. She just did such a good job ...more
Aug 27, 2016 Janet rated it liked it
Shelves: historical-novel
I liked The Language of Threads well enough that I plan to read the prequel, Women of Silk, which several reviewers recommended more than this second book.

Book summary from Goodreads reviewer, Bobbi:
his is the story of a young Chinese girl, Pei, who leaves China and flees to Hong Kong after the invasion of Japan during the Second World War. She worked in a silk factory in a small Chinese town (the first story) where women bonded together in a close knit sisterhood and life was, in general, bette
Becki Basley
Dec 28, 2015 Becki Basley rated it it was amazing
Don't read this book unless you read women of the silk first and if at all possible read them back to back. I loved both books! I think it helps expose a unique time in Chinese and especially Hong Kong's history and does in a way of continuing the story of Pei from the first book.

I personally like this method. I feel many times when our exposure to history is only via history books or certain history programs on television, there is never a complete understanding about how certain historical cl
Apr 09, 2015 Ellen rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 03, 2016 Betsy rated it really liked it
I had just heard Gail Tsukiyama interview Louise Erdrich at Keplers, and wanted to read more of her work, so I put this one on hold at the library. This is a lovely story that follows a young woman in Hong Kong from the late 1930s through WWII and picks up in the 1970s. The focus is clearly on WWII. I was fascinated by the account of the internment of the Brits still in Hong Kong when the Japanese invade. (The mother of a dear friend was interned in the Philippines in WWII, and I have read a bit ...more
Mar 18, 2013 Ram rated it really liked it
What a great author. She weaves a great tale, drawing you in bit by bit.
Jun 30, 2013 Caroline rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely loved it. It's a sequel to [The Women of Silk]. The story continues with Pei and Ji Shen fleeing China to Hong Kong because of the Japanese occupation. There they start to build a new life for themselves. Pei's strength and resilience is put to the test many times over as she learns how to fend for herself and then look after Ji Shen in this new world, taking on new work as a laundress, a domestic helper and later on a seamstress. As the Japanese bomb Hong Kong, round up the British i ...more
Feb 27, 2013 Liz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The enduring strength of family ties, the deep bonds of sisterhood, the power of women to survive in a harsh world and grief over the loss of love that abides til death, are all themes woven into the continuing tale of Pei, a Chinese girl from a poor family. The first part of her story is told in "Women of the Silk" and this book picks up there and follows her through WWII in Hong Kong and up through 1973 when she seems to be in her 60's. It could be a stand alone book however. Though the girls ...more

The Language of Threads – Tsukiyama
4 stars

This sequel to Women of the Silk continues the story of Pei and the orphaned Ji Shen as they flee to Hong Kong in the wake of the Japanese invasion. The story progresses through the Japanese occupation, the Communist take-over and the post war recovery of Hong Kong. As the central character, Pei struggles to support herself and Ji Shen while continuing to grieve for her partner, Lin. One or two other characters from the first story continue in this one.
Bree Fabig
Jul 03, 2012 Bree Fabig rated it it was ok
If the first book I had picked up from Tsukiyama happened to be LoT or WotS, I probably wouldn't have returned to her writing. Not because it's bad (far from it), but it seemed like a second draft most of the time. Luckily, I read The Samurai's Garden and The Street of a Thousand Blossoms far beforehand, and I am her devout fan. To anyone who has not read Tsukiyama but plans to, don't be deterred by Language of Threads or by Women of the Silk; she is a fluid and dazzling writer.
This novel, as we
Angela Gaskell
I thought this book was fast-paced. Although I never read its prequel, I got a lot out of the context and flashbacks. The author does a good job continuing the story and also reminding the readers of the first book. I get a feel for the work done in the silk manufacturing world based on these memories and stories (flashbacks), but there's good that comes of it. There's always a feeling of sisterhood. The writer is a positive writer, if that makes sense. Even though some of the events are horribl ...more
Jan 26, 2009 Marcy rated it it was amazing
This is a sequel to Women of the Silk, although you do not need to read Women of the Silk in order to understand The Language of Threads. Pei flees with Ji Shen, an orphan from the silk factory, to Hong Kong to run away from the Japanese. (They took over the small village in mainland China where Pei had worked for years in the silk factory. Hong Kong was safe for the time being). Pei finds work as "domestic" help in a rich home in Hong Kong and continues to support Ji Shen while Ji Shen goes to ...more
Lilian Garcia
Jul 23, 2012 Lilian Garcia rated it really liked it
Our bookclub reads a wide variety of interesting books, some good, some not so good. The Language of Threads presented us with an opportunity to read about the experiences of both the Chinese and the British in Hong Kong in WW2, as well as to share a little with the select group of Sisters of the Silk.

How disappointed were we?

The Language of Threads reads like a hastily thrown together novel, and we found ourselves wondering if it were the poor sister to a richer "Women of Silk". The lead charac
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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).
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