Vera Marie's Reviews > A Hundred Flowers

A Hundred Flowers by Gail Tsukiyama
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Aug 25, 2012

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bookshelves: historical-fiction
Read in August, 2012

In 1956, Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-Tung) invited the people of China to speak up. “Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of though contend,” he said. It took a year until the people felt confident that he meant it. However when Mao did not like the negative reactions he heard, he abruptly shut down dissent in what became known as the Cultural Revolution. Anyone who bore the signs of being educated was suspect. Even if you just wore glasses you would be in danger. In A Hundred Flowers, Gail Tsukiyama explores how the Cultural Revolution and the communist government affected one family during five months in 1958.

While the cultural detail fascinated me, I could not help comparing A Thousand Flowers to In the Shadow of The Banyan , which gave an urgency and reality to the similar trials of ordinary people in Cambodia during the Pol Pot regime. A similarity between the two novels is the emphasis on story telling. The old man tells stories to his grandson, and hides precious books for fear the government will find them. As in the Cambodian novel, stories help the young person grown and learn.

The thorough research of Gail Tsukiyama, part Japanese and part Chinese-American, brings China of the fifties to life. But it does not bring the emotional immediacy to this novel that Vaddey Ratner brings to her novel about Cambodia, which was based on her own life.

This is a portion of a review I published at A Traveler's Library. To see the entire review follow this link.

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