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A Hundred Flowers

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  3,651 ratings  ·  578 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 jeopard
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published August 7th 2012 by St. Martin's Press
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Average rating 3.76  · 
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 ·  3,651 ratings  ·  578 reviews

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[Shai] Bibliophage
Actual rating: 4.5

I was contemplating whether I should give a 4 or a 5 star so I just settle in the middle. I feel that there should be a closure to Suyin's family so it's not entirely perfect. Like maybe Kai Ying would have told her that they should inform Suyin's mom what her stepfather did. If there at least an ending to the story Wei's guilt, Song's life difficulties, and Kai Ying misery; I think Suyin should deserve justice to what happened to her.

Among the characters on this book, I c
Barbara H
Mar 12, 2012 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 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
Aug 07, 2012 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. ...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
Aug 25, 2012 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
Feb 06, 2013 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
Nabilah Firdaus
Jan 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
3.8/5 stars for A Hundred Flowers by Gail Tsukiyama

A Hundred Flowers tell a story of a family living in China during the reign of Mao Zedong. During his reign, he introduced The Hundred Flowers Campaign where all intellectuals & artists were encouraged to freely express their opinions about the Communist party. Gradually, many intellectuals, students and artists grew bolder in raising their voices and once the criticism turned directly towards the Party members and Mao himself, the Campaign was
The Hundred Flowers Campaign, also termed the Hundred Flowers Movement, a period which begun in May 1956 in the People’s Republic of China during which the Communist Party of China encouraged its citizens to express openly their opinions of the communist regime. It was to lift the restrictions imposed upon Chinese intellectuals and thus grant greater freedom of thought of speech.

This story begins in 1957 with Sheng’s family. Sheng, a headstrong teacher, is suspicious of such campaign as many oth
Aug 09, 2014 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
Sep 25, 2020 rated it liked it
I read this one while a waited for another Tsukiyama title to come in for me at the library. I liked it. I t seemed like there was more thought and introspection than action and dialogue, but in this book it worked. It's a nice story about a family holding on to hope and each other through a very difficult time. ...more
Cindy Leow
Dec 10, 2013 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
Dawn Michelle
" Let a hundred flowers bloom; let a hundred schools of thought contend"
Chairman Mao

An interesting and slightly odd book about a family dealing with the imprisonment of the father during the cultural revolution of Mao. There was a Hundred Flowers campaign where Mao encouraged people to write to him and tell him what they wanted to change about China and when the people finally felt safe enough to do so and started writing letters, Mao found out he didn't really want to hear what they all had to
Steven Bennett
Feb 05, 2015 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 & cultural fac ...more
Dec 05, 2012 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!
Aug 23, 2016 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. ...more
Jul 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed discovering this new author. I usually like books set in China and this is a good one.
May 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
A Hundred Flowers takes place during one of my favorite (intellectually!) periods in history, Maoist China. The title refers to the "Hundred Flowers Campaign," which failed miserably. The campaign was launched as an invitation for the Chinese to voice their opinions about the new Communist regime, but those who wrote letters or spoke out in public forums were later arrested and sentenced to hard labor in the countryside.

The book follows the Lee family from July to November 1958. In the first cha
Jan 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I love reading books by Gail Tsukiyama. Her ability to evoke emotion and place is truly amazing. A Hundred Flowers takes place just after the Hundred Flowers Campaign, in which the Chinese people were encouraged to criticize the communist government. What could go wrong? Everything, of course. A Hundred Flowers is the story of love, loss, secrets, and unintended consequences. It is also a story of forgiveness. It is beautifully written, and the transition between points of view is well done. Hig ...more
Leslie Ann
Jul 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook, fiction
3.5 stars. Solid read about a period of history I knew little about. Interestingly, although multiple generations are featured in this family drama, the character that grew the most is the grandfather.
Feb 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I really liked listening to this wonderfully sad yet sweet story of turning a mistake into something better. Wonderful characters and interesting glimpses into 1956 China.
Nov 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What a beautiful read! I could have finished it sooner but didn't want it to end. That is what I know I truly loved the story and the writing. My only criticism is that I do not know what happened to a main character. ...more
Sep 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Audio cd read by Simon Vance, the winner of the 2012 audio award for best male narrator. Listening to Vance read I felt like I was seven years old again, lying on my back in bed, clean fresh sheets neatly tucked in around me, the scent of lilacs wafting in from an open window, and my daddy reading me a bedtime story.

But this is no bedtime story. In my opinion, it is an absolutely terrific anti-communist novel.

The premise of the story is based on Chairman Mao's 1957 quote: "Let a hundred flower
Aug 07, 2012 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
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
Oct 17, 2012 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
Nov 10, 2014 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
Cynthia Archer
May 10, 2012 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
Jul 03, 2012 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;
Feb 21, 2013 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
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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

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