Kaye's Reviews > A Hundred Flowers

A Hundred Flowers by Gail Tsukiyama
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's review
Jul 27, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: 2012-challenge
Read from July 11 to 14, 2012

When Mao instituted the 100 flowers campaign, the party invited thoughts from intellectuals and artists on ways to improve China and the party itself. Although the party had previously persecuted intellectuals and artists, Kai Ying's husband Sheng, thought this time it would be different so he responded in good faith and this act led to his downfall. He was dragged off to a labor camp to be "reeducated". This had not just a financial impact but also a deep emotional one on his wife, son and father.

Using several points of view, Tskukiyama presents a heartwrenching story of the day-to-day survival of Sheng's family. Kai Ying keeps busy with her herbalist patients and running the household. Tao has to recover from his accident and attend school and his father, Wei, has to live with his guilty secret, his sense of shame and loneliness. But, inside all three desperately miss Sheng in their own way.

"Kai Ying knew that being "reeducated" was like falling down a black hole. Some were never seen again, while others returned defeated, deadened by the experience of hard labor, illness, and starvation. She willed for him to hold on, to return to them. She didn't allow herself to think of what they were going to do if Sheng never returned, if she never heard his voice or felt his touch again. "

"Don't worry, your ba ba will be back soon," he said reassuringly. Tao nodded, but all he tasted as he sucked on the hard candy was grief."
"He and his mother were sad, but his grandfather's sadness was different, heavier, like a weight pulling him down."

The introduction of several minor characters along with some of their back story added to the richness and depth of the tale.

Every book Gail has written, I have read and loved. Tsukiyama mentally and emotionally transported me to China during this most turbulent time. Every one of her books, although fiction, has taught me something about China's history. Tsukiyama not only makes her characters come alive but also the times and the place. Even though I didn't love it as much as The Street of a Thousand Blossoms, I still enjoyed it very much. 4****

Disclosure: A review copy of the book was provided by St. Martin's Press in exchange for my honest opinion.

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