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A Hundred Suns  By  cover art

A Hundred Suns

By: Karin Tanabe
Narrated by: Angela Dawe,Emily Ellet
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Publisher's summary

"A haunting, evocative tale that left me both richly satisfied and deeply unsettled - yet another Tanabe triumph. Captivating, suspenseful, and full of surprises." (Fiona Davis, national best-selling author of The Masterpiece)

A faraway land.

A family’s dynasty.

A trail of secrets that could shatter their glamorous lifestyle.

On a humid afternoon in 1933, American Jessie Lesage steps off a boat from Paris and onto the shores of Vietnam. Accompanying her French husband Victor, an heir to the Michelin rubber fortune, she’s certain that their new life is full of promise, for while the rest of the world is sinking into economic depression, Indochine is gold for the Michelins. Jessie knows that the vast plantations near Saigon are the key to the family’s prosperity, and though they have recently been marred in scandal, she needs them to succeed for her husband’s sake - and to ensure that the life she left behind in America stays buried in the past.

Jessie dives into the glamorous colonial world, where money is king and morals are brushed aside, and meets Marcelle de Fabry, a spellbinding expat with a wealthy Indochinese lover, the silk tycoon Khoi Nguyen. Descending on Jessie’s world like a hurricane, Marcelle proves to be an exuberant guide to colonial life. But hidden beneath her vivacious exterior is a fierce desire to put the colony back in the hands of its people - starting with the Michelin plantations.

It doesn’t take long for the sun-drenched days and champagne-soaked nights to catch up with Jessie. With an increasingly fractured mind, her affection for Indochine falters. And as a fiery political struggle builds around her, Jessie begins to wonder what’s real in a friendship that she suspects may be nothing but a house of cards.

Motivated by love, driven by ambition, and seeking self-preservation at all costs, Jessie and Marcelle each toe the line between friend and foe, ethics and excess. Cast against the stylish backdrop of 1920s Paris and 1930s Indochine, in a time and place defined by contrasts and convictions, Karin Tanabe's A Hundred Suns is historical fiction at its lush, suspenseful best.

A Macmillan Audio production from St. Martin's Press

"[A] stirring, elegant romance, richly drawn and complete with multidimensional characters." (Publishers Weekly) 

A Hundred Suns has a cinematic quality.... This view of French occupation in Indochina is replete with love affairs, revenge and secrets, not to mention a history lesson about the evils of colonialism.” (Washington Post)

©2020 Karin Tanabe (P)2020 Macmillan Audio

What listeners say about A Hundred Suns

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I have been seduced!

Karin Tanabe is a literary seductress. She first invites you to enjoy her tale of romance and adventure long ago, in far away Asia, as seen through the eyes of two protagonists. Jesse is a young American mother who has lifted herself up by her own boot straps, from poverty in America's tobacco country to the lofty echelons of high society in Paris and Indochina (Vietnam), where rubber is the golden commodity. The other protagonist, Marcelle, having ridden her beauty to the same social spheres, is bent on bringing down the oppressive plantation system that has the Indochinese populace in a brutal stranglehold. As her suspenseful tale unwinds however, you discover this is more than a mere romantic novel. "A Hundred Suns" is also a lesson in Colonialism and the Communist uprisings of Viet Nam in the 1930's, brought to life by her fascinating, believable and empathetic characters.

What I found most admirable about Tanabe's deftly crafted plot, is that the reader sympathizes with both these characters, who have stakes in opposite poles of the political spectrum, pitted against each other in a deadly game. Both characters are flawed individuals of dark secrets and dirty deeds, yet Tanabe makes you root for them both until their opposing views and treachery ultimately come face to face.

I am grateful to Karin Tanabe for taking me on this entertaining ride that has indeed left me a more knowledgeable person. I have enjoyed her two previous works equally, "The Gilded Years" and "The Diplomat's Daughter," and I am eagerly awaiting her next masterpiece. I believe Karin Tanabe is one of America's leading authors. Her international scope and yearning for people of the world to understand one another and uplift the world are palpable in every one of her enthralling novels. If everyone would read Karin's books, and take them to heart, the world would certainly become a better place for us all.

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9 people found this helpful

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Viet Nam in 1933

Viet Nam in 1933 —history, adventure, intrigue and romance. I don’t read many novels, but I absolutely loved this one, perhaps since Viet Nam looms so large in the life of our Country and my generation.

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I was expecting more

I heard review on NPR so wanted to get book. It unfortunately was very uneven. Some descriptions of the life and times were vivid while others were flat. Narrative alternating between main characters had some good points but story splintered and characters became unfortunate caricatures.
The performance was excellent but I was hoping for more.

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Do your research!

This book presented itself as sympathetic to colonized people, but there was a LOT of White Man's Burden attitude here. Not to mention that a woman in that time would NOT have said that something was "impactful." The noun "impact" did not morph into an adjective until the 21 century. And... in the circle of communist nationalists why was there no mention at all of Ho Chi Minh?

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Poorly written. Editors, where were you?

The setting in French colonial Indochine, was promising but the author lacks the skill to subtly reveal her anti-colonialist theme. Result: she becomes didactic and heavy-handed, with crushingly dull, stilted, unnatural dialogue to try to make her point. For example, one communist tells his lover basic information about how bad the French colonials are, even though they have been lovers for years and both know and agree on this, so such a conversation would never have occurred.
In addition the author for the most part denies agency to Vietnamese characters, especially impoverished communists. Her change agents in the Vietnam of her chosen era are a former Vogue model, her wealthy capitalist Vietnamese lover, and a disillusioned member of the Michelin family. The Western stereotypes and amplification of the power of Western/wealthy/privileged characters undermines the author’s point about colonialism. The one true local communist is an unpleasant poisoner who gets a bit part in one chapter.
In the end you’re left with shallow chick lit in an exotic location. I found the whole thing sickening and thoughtless.

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Awful

Amateurishly written with a weak story, trite characters & oddly portrayed history.
Couldn’t goad myself into the denouement.

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'guilt history'

I am so tired how 'colonizers' destroyed paradise. Believe me the native population was complicit. As a hispanic I know Cortez and 90 Spanish Soldiers could not have conquered Mexico with out their willing native accomplices. So it was and is everywhere 'colonizers' set foot around the world. In this same manner the Romans and the Greeks conquered the known world. Nothing historically new or shocking.
No more Tanabe for me.

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Ugh… chapter 22

The conversation between Marcelle and Red in this chapter should really have taken place in another setting. Why the author thought people needed to be exposed to this disgusting imagery is beyond me. It’s bad erotica (ie, I can’t imagine it being appealing even if this was a genre you liked).

Good counterpoints:

I liked the characters of Jessie, Victor, their driver, and Koi.
The author’s descriptions of the places were quite good.

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