The Book Mark

Books that make the grade.

A Hundred Flowers



Gail Tsukiyama’s newest book A Hundred Flowers (B) is the third of her novels that I have read. Though well written and clearly thought provoking, it did not hit the mark that The Samurai’s Garden and Women of the Silk did.

The story begins in 1958 and is based on a Mao Tse-Tung quote, “Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend.”

Wei is a scholar who is now retired from teaching. He lives with his son Sheng, Sheng’s wife Kai Ying and their son Tao. The book opens after Sheng has been removed from his home and family; sent to a camp for reeducation due to a political letter that was written in opposition to the Mao government. (The quote mentioned above was taken by some as an opportunity to voice their opinions.) Young Tao has been seriously injured due to a fall from the courtyard tree.

As the story moves along each family member struggles with Sheng’s absence and the impact it will have on them. Kai Ying tries to manage her family and herb business.  Wei takes on the responsibility of getting Tao to and from school. Wei has been keeping secret the fact that he played an integral part in Sheng’s arrest. Once the secret is revealed the life of each character changes again.

There is much to be learned about honesty and love in this novel. I enjoyed the mini chapters spoken in the voice of each character. It helped to understand their feelings. There are several additional characters that enrich the story too.

While not my favorite of Tsukiyama’s novels, it kept me interested and involved.  I encourage you to try it and hope you take the opportunity to read her others.  You will find her writing beautiful and poignant.


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