Jena Henry's Reviews > A Hundred Suns

A Hundred Suns by Karin Tanabe
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it was amazing

Stunning!! And devastating! And by the end of this lyrical book, life is as beautiful as the sun. I am mixing metaphors here, when I say that this book is like a kabuki performance. Kabuki is a traditional and stylized Japanese form of drama, and this book takes place in colonial Indochina, now Viet Nam. Still, the sweeping and rich blend of romance, suspense, history, as shown through the food, scenery, clothing and manners of the time is presented in the stylized manner of kabuki. Each character is trapped in their role and must perform according to the rules of the times. (And by “kabuki” I don’t mean to imply that this book is inaccessible to a reader. A Hundred Suns is thrilling, exciting, puzzling and glorious, you must read it in one sitting.)

So, who are the character in the insular world of Indochina in the 1930’s? The main character that looms overall, is Michelin et Cie. Then comes Jessie, an American, who has managed to achieve her dream of leaving her life of poverty behind by marrying a rich member of the Michelin family. She lives in Paris with her husband, Victor. Although he is not a major Michelin, he seizes the opportunity to take his wife and child to Hanoi, Indochina, France’s colony to manage Michelin’s two large rubber plantations.

Another set of characters, also with a Michelin interest are the French Marcelle, her Indochine lover Khoi and their two close friends. Marcelle and Khoi met as students in Paris and reunited in Hanoi. Khoi is the scion of a major “native” silk producer. Their paths collide with Victor and Jessie in a diabolical and sinister way.

Another major part of the book are the places- Paris and Hanoi. Both are well described with lush scenes that show the sophistication, culture and facades of Paris, the weather, natural beauty, food, and societal structure of Hanoi. In the midst of beauty and wealth, Capitalism battles Communism, Jessie struggles with her past, Marcelle and Khoi strive to right a wrong.

The story begins on a specific day, November, 20, 1933 in Hanoi, and then flashes back to the events that lead to the catastrophic denouement on this day. Are dreams and hopes, guided by the sun enough?

Highly, highly recommend. Many thanks to NetGalley and the Publisher, St. Martin’s Press for aa digital review copy. This is my honest review.

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
November 5, 2019 – Shelved

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