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A Hundred Suns

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Karin Tanabe is one of my favorite historical fiction authors for her ability to completely immerse the reader in a foreign setting. I love that that this one slowly unwound, reeling me in more and more deeply with each chapter.
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"Ours was a union that felt unbreakable, even if it had been built from a few half-truths."

Second time this week I've written a review in its entirety and lost it. I can't remember all the things I wrote in my first draft. However, I'm positive it was brilliant.😜 I'm annoyed at having to rewrite this review. Don't expect greatness. I don't have double servings of that today. So...

A Hundred Suns is one of those reads that I liked, loved, and despised. Let's start (again) with the didn't-like-so-much. I did not form a bond with any of the characters. Some were favored over another but I can't say I had an attachment to anyone in particular. Surprisingly, that didn't ruin the story. Without making an alliance I was free to sympathize with all of the characters – characters that scheme and plot to get ahead and get what they want. That said, I remember being disappointed when it was revealed that a likable character would have to be disliked. Initially, this frustrated me. Here the story splits and is told from two different perspectives. By themselves the characters are likable. But, I couldn't help feeling like each was suspect. They felt unreliable as narrators. This kept me on my toes. I wasn't expecting this. Add dark opium dens set against the backdrop of steamy Indochina and you've got a recipe for psychological thrills. 

Historical elements are present. There's no mistaking the era and setting. Tanabe reminds the reader more than once about the Vietnamese uprising against French colonial power. It's repeated so often I wondered if Tanabe didn't trust me to comprehend the plot. It's cool. I kept up. I would've liked historical events to play more of a prominent role instead of just a convenient setting. 

I liked the way the story flowed. The beginning is engaging. I stumbled over a few chapters, then found it difficult to set aside. Forcing me to read past my bedtime (way past my bedtime!) earns this book four stars. The last three quarters of the book were as confusing as langdang tea. Did I imagine this story to be better than it actually is? Because I'm not fully convinced, I'd have to rate this one at 3.5 stars. Even though I have mixed feelings I'm going to round up to four stars. If anything, the ability to engage a reader is worth the extra props.

*Special thanks to Macmillan Publishers for providing an e-copy courtesy of NetGalley.
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3.25 Stars

Telling the story of two women, Jessie, an American expat who married into the famed Michelin family, and Marcelle, a former fashion model married to the French head of the Hanoi Chamber of Commerce, author Karin Tanabe offers the reader of A Hundred Suns insights into 1930's Indochine and the strife surrounding the Michelin rubber empire. French colonialism in the region was rife with the gauzy lies of improving quality of life while profiting off virtual slave labor. Jessie, who has a good heart, wants to believe the best of the Michelin propaganda about the lives of plantation "coolies." Marcelle, long in love with a communist sympathizer Nguyen Khoi, actively works to destroy Jessie and her husband's lives in Indochine, as she seeks liberation for those working under the yoke of the powerful Michelin labor machine. (Contemplate the idea that during the US war against the Viet Cong in Vietnam that the Michelins were rumored to have paid off the Viet Cong to leave the plantations alone, and that they charged the US forces for any damage to their plantations in spite of the fact that, in theory, the US was rooting out the communist threat the Michelin family had long opposed.) Each of these women's lives is shrouded in lies and subterfuge, with Jessie, in particular, running from a dark past.

The setting of the novel was interesting, though I wish that Tanabe had convinced me more of a sense of 1930's Hanoi. While the book certainly made me crave watching the film Indochine again, I found the lives of Jessie and Marcelle to be a little too convoluted, in particular Marcelle's machinations to try to get Jessie to return to France, when it was obvious to the reader that Marcelle was aware of Jessie's reasons for moving to Indochine in the first place. I also found some aspects of the character relationships to be inconsistent. For instance, Jessie's mother in law distrusts her so much with Lucie to the extent Jessie ends up in Switzerland (spoilers there...), but listens to her plan of moving to Indochine to further ingratiate Victor with the powerful end of the Michelin family with which they are not as involved?

A pleasant enough diversion for lovers of historical fiction and suspense stories.

The audiobook, narrated by Angela Dawe and Emily Ellet, was nicely voiced.

I received a digital review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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This book was up and down for me.  I LOVED parts of it, parts of it annoyed me, and parts of it dragged on.  Jessie Lesage, her husband Victor,and their daughter Lucie move to French Indochina so Victor can take a bigger role in his family's business.  His family being the Michelin family (as in Michelin tires).  Jessie is an American woman who married into the family.  Jessie has a past she wants hidden and the move from Paris to Hanoi will help that.  It will also help Victor to continue to climb up the ladder she feels he needs to climb.  
Jessie is hard to connect with character who is some parts you feel broken-hearted for and others, just wondering why?   Marcelle becomes her friend...or enemy depending on the day of the week.  Their stories intertwine and both have secrets that will blow up so many lives if discovered.
Thank you Netgalley for the ARC.
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I have very mixed feelings about this book.  While I was reading this, we were in the midst of the COVID 19 pandemic, and had been sheltering at home for way too long.  Because of this, I greatly enjoyed the first half of this book as I was fully transported to an exotic time and place. Indochina in the 1920s, during the French colonial occupation was a wonderful place if you were Uber-rich. It was not so wonderful if you were a poor Vietnamese worker on the plantations making the Uber-rich richer.  

The story was set at a time when conditions had become so unbearable for many of the native laborers that they were turning to Communist sympathizers to organize revolts.  These revolts were put down ruthlessly and leaders were punished in horrendous ways. 
The protagonist arrived on the scene for her own reasons, not understanding this political upheaval boiling just under the surface, and, because of this, seemed to other colonists with their own agendas either naive or complicit.  As she gradually began understanding the reality of the situation, she had to make difficult choices about how to live with the harsh realities all around her.  

It was very difficult for me to rate this book.  Although I loved the descriptions of Indochina at that time, I felt the plot was somewhat convoluted and overly dramatic, but I recommend it with some caveats.  There are some scenes of heartbreaking cruelty that I found quite distressing. I was also disappointed in the ending. From what I believed about the protagonist, I didn’t believe she was capable of ignoring such terrible acts. That said, I do intend to read more of this author and recommend others give her a try.
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Event driven historical fiction, which begins in 1930s Paris, but quickly transitions to the often neglected history of the French Indochine colony and the Michelin rubber plantations. In Paris the children of the elite Indochine were educated while in Hanoi the the French expats lived in luxury,  peppered with booze, drugs, and sex,while exploiting the population and pillaging the natural resources.  The Indochine elite kept to their roles and neighborhoods, whether it be affluent or poor.  Characters are are good and bad, capitalists and communists, and filled love and angst, revenge and reconciliation. I have already recommended this title to fellow readers.
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A lyrical story set in French-colonized Vietnam, where Jesse Lesage, wife to the heir of the Michelin fortune, falls head first into a world of drugs and politics. She navigates her role as a woman of privilege in a foreign country and becomes friends with the glamorous Marcelle de Fabry, another worldly and seasoned kept woman. 

The setting of this was gorgeous. I love historical fiction that's set in unexpected places, and this was a strength for me. There was a fair amount of history about this region, and you can tell the author did her research. There is a bit of a mystery that helped draw me in, and I love rich people problems so overall I found this interesting. It reminded me of Tangier by Christine Mangan. I'd read this author again!
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Thank you NetGalley and St. Martins for a complimentary copy. I voluntarily reviewed this book. All opinions expressed are my own. 

A Hundred Suns 
By: Karin Tanabe 

I was a bit disappointed with A Hundred Suns because I was expecting something more from this book. Set in Indiochine in an era I know little about, the story was informative, and I appreciate that. The plot just seemed stuck and not interesting to me because I kept thinking about other things. For whatever reason I made no connection and found this an average read. I can take it or leave it. The story is not my style, but that's an issue of personal preference. It will appeal to many readers.
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This was a well written historical novel about Indochina and the Michelin family, both of which I know little about. I did enjoy the book and was thrilled it was not a WWII Germany book.  With that said, I did not think there was  enough history about this time period interwoven within the story for me.  How about a blurb at the end describing the time period and the families history?
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I will say that this book is a lot more twisty than I initially would have suspected. One could also argue that it may fit into more than one category. Based on the timeframe of the 1930’s, it is decidedly historical fiction, but there are also echoes of psychological  warfare and deception here that are reminiscent of psychological thrillers. Set primarily in Hanoi, the story follows Jessie Lesage. An enterprising young American who hit marriage gold when she wed into the Michelin Family. Known for their extensive rubber plantations in Indochine, Jessie convinces her husband that moving the family to Hanoi will allow him to monitor the plantations more closely, and in a time when communist ideals run rampant, this could give them a much needed edge. Hoping to ditch an oppressive mother in law in France, Jessie has her own motivations for fleeing to a new world. Enchanted by the beauty of Hanoi, Jessie soon becomes enchanted by a beautiful young woman named Marcele De Fabry. Ensnared by her fun loving, bubbly nature, Jessie pushes her limits. Content with adapting to her new life, Jessie becomes a victim in a conspiracy that began in France many years before her little family relocated to Hanoi. This was a very different style of historical novel, which made it fresh and interesting. It can be hard to tell sometimes which woman is more savage, Jessie or Marcele. Definitely a good time. Review posted to Facebook, Goodreads, Litsy, Amazon, and LibraryThing.
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The U.S. first entered French Indochina, now known as Vietnam, in the mid-1950s, This book has opened my eyes on the years leading up to that time as no history book, fiction or non-fiction, ever has. I read the ARC of A Hundred Suns, by Karin Tanabe,  courtesy of St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The story is hauntingly beautiful, and evokes many emotions. It deals with French colonialism and industrial expansion in the area, specifically the Michelin family; and is full of passion, intrigue, deception, love and romance, fear, and political corruption.

The fictional couple, American Jessie Lesage and her husband, Victor, one of several heirs to the Michelin empire, arrive in Hanoi to manage the three Michelin rubber plantations. Enamored with the city, it’s botanical and architectural beauty, Jessie quickly settles into the glamorous  1930s world of the wealthy and morally bankrupt French society. Quickly befriended by the captivating Marcelle de Fabry.

Jessie and Marcelle both have their secrets; and they are often working at odds with each other, as Jessie begins to suspect Marcelle has ulterior motives for befriending her. Both are motivated by self-preservation and ambition. Against the background of workers’ rights uprisings on the plantations over the French exploitation of both workers and natural resources, encouraged by communist agitators, Jessie soon learns Marcelle is no friend.

One thing I expect in a novel is good research. In A Hundred Suns, Arnaud de Fabry implies the Michelins invented the pneumatic tire. Actually it was invented by Scottish veterinarian and inventor, John Boyd Dunlop. Nevertheless, I loved the story, and found it difficult to put it down. For a compelling story set against the backdrop of 1930s history, you can’t go wrong.

What made The Grumpy Book Reviewer grumpy?

Can a story be beautifully told, yet not beautifully written? For me, that seems to be the case because of these things: 
•	Implying the wrong inventor of the pneumatic tire;
•	Excessive use of the word “that”;
•	Incorrect verb usage: was vs. were, bring vs. take;
•	Referring to people as “that” rather than “who”;
•	Using “further” in place of “farther”;
•	Numerous split infinitives;
•	Consistently misplacing the word “only” within sentences. Most of us do this when speaking, but we can get away with much more in spoken English than we can in written English.
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This book grabbed my interest from the first chapter. I liked the building of the atmosphere throughout the story. I expected a little more variation in the drama though. I also felt like the pacing was a little off. The story went slowly until the last 10% of the book and then wrapped up really quickly. I struggled with liking any of the characters as well. The ending was somewhat satisfying though. I am just kind of ambivalent about this one. Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for granting access to this book. I will post this review tomorrow to my Bookstagram and companion Facebook page @thatreadingrealtor.
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I wanted to love this, and it just didn't work for me. I found myself getting lost in the early beginnings of the book, so I decided to not finish. I think that this book will be great for those that love lots of deep, descriptive imagery. I also had a hard time getting invested in the characters.
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Part historical fiction and part psychological thriller, A Hundred Suns balances both genres creating an atmospheric and fascinating look at European influence in 1930s Vietnam. It's 1933 and Jessie Lesage leaves Paris with her husband Victor and daughter Lucie, to begin a new life in Hanoi. Jessie's past has caught up with her in Paris and Vietnam offers her a chance to escape and start anew while also helping Victor establish himself with his powerful Michelin family. In Hanoi, she is sucked into the world of expats and intrigue, while her husband struggles with the uprising of communists at the Michelin rubber plantations. 

This is a great balance of history and intrigue, creating a strong sense of time and place, while keeping the reader on edge with many twists and turns.

This will appeal to fans of historical fiction, psychological thrillers and women's fiction.
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I just love a book where the setting is also a character, and that's the case with A Hundred  Suns. This book takes readers back to Indochine, or modern-day Vietnam. It's a book that explores wealth and political intrigue. It's a nice departure from WWII historical fiction that's captivating.

Many thanks to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.
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A Hundred Suns is about 1930's Indochine, now Vietnam, a place and point in history that were mostly unknown to me.  The book focuses on two women, Jessie and Marcelle.  Jessie had an impoverished and brutal childhood, prompting her to thoroughly erase her past and reinvent herself, first in NYC and later in Paris.  In Paris she meets and marries Victor, a member of the prestigious Michelin family.  Pushing Victor to climb the family ladder, Jessie suggests that they relocate to Indochine so that Victor can oversee the family's rubber plantations.  On their first night in Hanoi, Jessie meets the very beautiful (and very scheming) Marcelle.  Unbeknownst to Jessie, her new friend Marcelle has been doing research on Jessie and Victor because she is hiding a huge grudge against the Michelin family and Jessie and Victor, in particular.  Marcelle is French and married to Arnaud, a rich banker; however, before she was married, Marcelle fell hopelessly in love with Khoi, the son of a wealthy silk baron.  Their best friends in Paris were another French woman, also part of the Michelin family, and her Vietnamese lover, Sinh Cao.  Sinh was killed when he returned to Vietnam to visit his family, and Marcelle and Khoi hold the Michelins responsible.

The novel is in part a tale of suspense involving Jessie and Marcelle and in part an historical look at a time when the French ruled Indochine.  I enjoyed the suspense aspect of the book, but I wished there had been a bit more focus on the horrific world of the French rubber plantations.  Author Tanabe, who is new to me, skillfully drew me in with the sights and sounds of old Hanoi and the lives of the rich French who reigned over this part of the world.  She also beautifully developed the characters of Jessie and Marcelle.  I very much empathized with Jessie and came to hate Marcelle.

I enjoyed A Hundred Suns very much and will go back and read some of Karin Tanabe's earlier novels.  My thanks to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for providing me a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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I seldom use the word luscious to describe a book, yet this story set in Vietnam during the French rule is just that. The story is interesting as well and provides historical information I didn't know about the Vietnamese who worked for the foreign companies. It helps me understand why after the decadent French, the Vietnamese were willing to accept Communism.
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When I read the first chapter, I settled in expecting a delicious mystery.  Then I read the next chapters - - what?  What happened to the mystery?  Why is this rather boring story thrown in?  I couldn't relate to the characters and just kept wondering why the book didn't keep that original zing that was so promising.   Good for historical fiction I guess but it could have been so much more enjoyable.
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One of my all-time favorite authors, Fiona Davis, called this novel “A haunting evocative tale.” USA Today said that it “…leaves you gripping the edge of your seat.”  I was excited to read this book.

I curled up in my favorite reading chair, ready to had to a faraway land (French Indochine [now Viet Nam], 1933) to join a family dynasty (Michelin [as in rubber]) and following a trail of secrets. At 400 pages, I was ready for a long escape from the stay-at home orders of the 2020 Covid-19 Pandemic.

The first chapter opens in the Hanoi train station on November 20, 1933. Author Remmer does an excellent job in capturing its feel…and by the time I reached the end of Chapter One, I was sure that this would be a wonderful novel. It felt like something out of Alfred Hitchcock movie.

Chapter Two backs the story up and the rest of the novel explains how a minor cousin of the famous Michelin family, Victor Lesage and his family had arrived in order to be the overseers of two rubber plantations. They are the first of the famous family to ever reside on the plantations.  Riots and massacres are no strangers to the area, but back in France, the Michelins have been able to ignore it.

And that’s where the author lost me. It was a tough read after that. I didn’t understand all the French, and I assume what we now call Vietnamese, words. Not to mention the names of places that I couldn’t decipher nor could I place in either the Northern or Southern parts of the country.

As I read some of the Hitchcockian chapters returned, and I would be glad I had slogged through. But then that joy quickly disappeared again.  

I’m sure the problems I encountered with this novel were more me than the author’s fault. But still, I must give “A Hundred Suns” receives 2 out of 5 stars in Julie’s world.
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Thank you to NetGalley, St.Martin Press, and Karin Tanabe for the ARC of A Hundred Suns in return for my honest review.

A Hundred Suns is a must-read for historical novel lovers! The era of French colonialism in Vietnam made for very different settings and subject matter that I knew little about. While the story unfolds slowly, the author keeps the suspense running until the very end.

The thorough character development allows the reader to be invested in each person's conclusion in this compelling page-turner!
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