Karin Tanabe comes to the blog with a story set in 1930’s Indochina
A Hundred Suns
Told in alternating chapters we meet Jessie, an American married to the French born Victor, also an heir to the Michelin dynasty meets Marcelle de Fabry, also a French ex-Pat who also has a moneyed lifestyle and, by virtue of knowing “almost everyone” including her lover and silk merchant Khoi Nguyen. Marcelle and Jessie seem to bond – at least until the cattiness starts as allegiances are tested, the rich and need always to be entertained get bored, and Jessie finds herself disillusioned with both the country and her ‘new friends’, particularly when political tensions start to rise and the contrasts between what she ‘thought’ this move would provide and what she is actually navigating in her daily life.
What emerges as the story unfolds is the convoluted and complex issues that surround imperialism and colonization, the abject poverty and horrible conditions that the Vietnamese every-day person endured: from long hours for little pay to dangerous situations, strife within families as the unrest over social inequities give rise to a pro-communist viewpoint, and the utter disregard for the years of unique history and family dynamics that were the mainstay of the culture prior to the Michelin’s involvement and hunt for rubber. Added to this is Jessie’s history of mental illness and the long hours spent simply indulging in whims that only the rich could afford, perhaps manipulated and encouraged into more and more ‘questionable’ pastimes, leaving her close to crisis when she starts to see the dire consequences for her (and all of the ex-Pat’s) attitudes and actions.
Bringing the time and place to life and light, it is a part of the history of the world that not many people are aware of, knowing of the ‘boat lifts’ during the late 1960’s and 70’s, and little else. Researched and presenting information and little pieces of ‘side knowledge’ that is not well know regarding the Michelin dynasty, as well as presenting the story as one where the ‘downtrodden’ – the Vietnamese workers who were so exploited and abused – become the only people to truly cheer on, finding their turning to communist ideals quite logical and discovering the hearts of the people who simply wanted to ‘regain’ their own country, and have been fighting for just that for long years now. A nice mix of suspense and history with a dash of frenemies and romance added in, the story takes readers on a journey that entertains and enlightens.
Title: A Hundred Suns
Author: Karin Tanabe
Genre: Family Saga, Friendship, Historic Elements, Historical Fiction, Mental Health, Multi-Cultural, Political commentary, Post World War I, Romantic Elements, Setting: Southeast Asia, Sociological Relevancy, Vietnamese, Woman's Fiction
Published by: St. Martin's Press
Published on: 7 April, 2020
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Audio Length: 14 Hours: 30 minutes
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An evocative historical novel set in 1930's Indochine, about the American wife of a Michelin heir who journeys to the French colony in the name of family fortune, and the glamorous, tumultuous world she finds herself in—and the truth she may be running from.
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 their vast plantations near Saigon are the key to the family’s prosperity, and while they have been marred in scandal, she needs them to succeed for her husband’s sake—and to ensure that her trail of secrets stays hidden 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 French woman with a moneyed Indochinese lover, the silk tycoon Khoi Nguyen. Descending on Jessie’s world like a hurricane, Marcelle proves to be an exuberant guide to ex-pat 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, fueled by a terrible wrong committed against her and Khoi’s loved ones in Paris.
Yet 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 1930s Indochine, in a time and place defined by contrasts and convictions, A Hundred Suns is historical fiction at its lush, suspenseful best.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.