3 reviews

A Hundred Flowers: A Novel
by Gail Tsukiyama

Published: 2012-08-07
Hardcover : 304 pages
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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...
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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 jeopardize their safety or that of their young son, Tao. But one July morning, just before his sixth birthday, Tao watches helplessly as Sheng is dragged away for writing a letter criticizing the Communist Party and sent to a labor camp for “reeducation.”

A year later, still missing his father desperately, Tao climbs to the top of the hundred-year-old kapok tree in front of their home, wanting to see the mountain peaks in the distance. But Tao slips and tumbles thirty feet to the courtyard below, badly breaking his leg.
As Kai Ying struggles to hold her small family together in the face of this shattering reminder of her husband’s absence, other members of the household must face their own guilty secrets and strive to find peace in a world where the old sense of order is falling. Once again, Tsukiyama brings us a powerfully moving story of ordinary people facing extraordinary circumstances with grace and courage.

Editorial Review

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The courtyard was still quiet so early in the morning, the neighborhood just waking as Neighbor Lau’s rooster began to crow. The air was already warm, a taste of the heat and humidity that would be unbearable by midday. Seven-year-old Tao knew he had little time to climb the kapok tree before he’d be discovered. He glanced down at the gnarled roots of the tree and felt strangely comforted, a reminder of the crooked ginger roots his ma ma sliced and boiled into strong teas for her headaches, or when his ba ba complained of indigestion. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

Wei and Sheng have different philosophies of life as evidenced by their statements on page 17. Wei says to "look for the quiet within the storm" while Shen states to walk "straight into the storm." As the plot unfolds do you feel that these early declarations are true to each man's character?

On page 83 Kai Yeng remembers that Sheng told her that worrying about the worst thing that can happen will take the same amount of energy as hoping for the best. Do you agree? What examples of hope do you find in the book? Do you feel that Sheng had hope? Kai Yeng?

Why is the character of Suyin necessary to the plot? What different roles does she play for the other members of the household?

Do you agree with Wei's observation (page 239) that China "could easily have caught up with the rest of the world if she weren't always being dragged backward"?

In the end the Kapok tree heals itself. Do you feel that the relationship between Wei and Sheng was healed? Are they truly "more alike than either of us knew" (page 281)?

The Kapok tree is almost a character itself in this book. Explain its significance to one or more characters. P. 285 ."...the kapok tree had healed itself." How might this also be true for others in the book? Explain.

Suggested by Members

What is the significance of the tree and how the word pearl appears often in the book.
by Paint4me (see profile) 10/13/12

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

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Book Club Recommendations

Keep notes.
by Paint4me (see profile) 10/13/12
Several members kept notes as they read this book and it enhanced the club discussions.

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
  "Our club liked it"by mannaria (see profile) 12/19/12

All six members in the club liked it. Most thought it was slow to start but the characters were developed nicely as the story unfolded. We all learned a bit of history about the Chinese way of life and... (read more)

  "A Hundred Flowers"by barbararobins (see profile) 10/18/12

This narrative was boring and slow. Everyone in our group was disappointed by this selection and we only selected it because our club recieved the copies for free.

  "A Hundres Flowers"by Paint4me (see profile) 10/13/12

A thoughtful, wonderful and surprising book. Everyone enjoyed it. About half of our group were disappointed with the ending, or lack of ending. The others felt it was a thoughtful ending. The discussion... (read more)

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