Tsukiyama’s new novel takes place in 1958 and its title comes from Chairman Mao’s 1957 declaration of openness: “Let a hundred flowers bloom; let a hundred schools of thought contend.” What actually blooms is fear and confusion, when university professor and intellectual Sheng Ying is taken by the police to a re-education camp, leaving his wife, Kai Ying, son Tao, aunt Song, and father Wei, also a professor, to make sense of his fate. To protect Tao, his mother tells him that his father is away working, but when the boy is teased at school about it, he demands to know the truth, forcing Wei to admit his role in Sheng’s arrest and creating a rift in the fragile family. Wracked with guilt, Wei goes in search of his son, hoping to put his family’s life back together. Tsukiyama (Women of the Silk) adopts the contemporary template of multiple perspective narration to explore the relationships of a close family in a closed society. Though complex human beings fail to emerge from the facade of stock voices, the tenderness the author shows for her characters creates a sympathetic portrait of intellectuals trying to live honestly in the shadow of oppression. Agent: Linda Allen. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 06/18/2012 Release date: 08/07/2012 Genre: Fiction
During the Covid-19 crisis, Publishers Weekly is providing free digital access to our magazine, archive, and website. To receive the access to the latest issue delivered to your inbox free each week, enter your email below.