A Hundred Suns

A Novel

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Pub Date 07 Apr 2020 | Archive Date 07 Apr 2020


Named A Best Book of Spring 2020 by Real Simple · Parade · PopSugar · New York Post · Entertainment Weekly · Betches · CrimeReads · BookBub

"A transporting historical novel, and a smart thriller."
Washington Post

"A luscious setting combined with a sinister, sizzling plot." -EW

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.

Named A Best Book of Spring 2020 by Real Simple · Parade · PopSugar · New York Post · Entertainment Weekly · Betches · CrimeReads · BookBub

"A transporting historical novel, and a smart thriller."

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ISBN 9781250231475
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Average rating from 185 members

Featured Reviews

This sweeping historical will capture the imagination of the most jaded readers. It’s the 1930’s when American Jessie Lesage heads to Vietnam with her husband and Michelin heir, Victor. Jessie hopes that the remote rubber plantation will be a good place to leave her scandalous past behind. She soon meets Marcelle de Fabry a wild French woman who lives a scandalous life of her own, with a silk tycoon lover and wants to return Vietnam to its people. Exciting, evocative and impossible to put down

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Victor Lesage, his wife Jessie, and their daughter Lucie, seek to navigate French Indochine [Viet Nam] as the Communists are making inroads. Victor is part of the Michelin family [yes, Michelin rubber] which has vast plantations which "employ" thousands of workers [coolies]. While Victor and his family live in luxurious conditions, the workers' lives are filled with poverty, not enough to eat or drink, and generally abysmal living conditions.

Against this backdrop, we see Jessie has found a friend, Marcelle, and they swim, drink, eat, drink and party. The longer she is in country, the less confident Jessie becomes - convinced that her tumultuous past will not leave her alone.

You will sympathize with the workers, you will begin to understand how Communism might be appealing, and you will see just how treacherous and selfish some people can be. A great storyline with a remarkable ending which shows that true friends can be right under your nose.

I read this EARC courtesy of St. Martin's Press and Net Galley. pub date 04/07/20

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You feel right away in this country and the mystery of disappearance of family! Don't like to tell the story but It's a very good history story and you really are in with these believable characters. You have all sorts of ingredients to make up this interesting story! Don't start this book unless you finish cause them you don't find out everything! Net Gallery thank you! This takes place in Viet Nam a place a lot of It's know nothing about which you will learn in this book!!

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This book was another win by Karin Tanabe. Not only did I thoroughly enjoy her previous works, but this story was a real page turner. Set in Vietnam (Indochina) during the early 1930s, we follow Jessie and Marcella as they navigate the Michelin rubber plantations and Communist uprisings of the French colonial time period. I thought this story was fast-paced and the plot was fantastic. I highly recommend!

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I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Fascinating historical novel set in colonial era Viet Nam. A member of the Michelin family, his American wife and their daughter travel move from Paris to the French colony. Interesting look into background of Communism and what it was plotting against. Haves vs have nots is the central theme. Along the way there is romance, intrigue, mystery and revenge. The characters are well developed and the country is portrayed lushly. It help me captive until the end.

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This was a really interesting look at a historical time that is not often covered. In addition to being beautifully written I learned a lot!

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Loved this book. It's a historical novel about the Michelin rubber plants in Indochina. When I read historical fiction I never start googling about the era or topic until I finish the book and then it's the first thing I do. I'm always anxious to see whether it's truly historical with fiction to enhance the story or if it is fiction in a historical setting. For what it is worth, I believe this is the latter although as you can that didn't impact my rating! The book is a study of the times and of race but from a different perspective than other novels. It's a great time piece, informative and filled with intrigue. An all around great read.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me an early release in exchange for an honest and fair review.

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A thoroughly enjoyable book that may be historical fiction, but also has suspense, intrigue and double crossing strong female characters who are worthy opponents. I was not particularly familiar with the French colonization of Vietnam prior to its independence and cannot verify the accuracy. All of the characters are fictional per the author’s own admission although Michelin is very much a corporation based in France and the founders are as named in the book. In the 1920s and 1930s, Michelin operated large rubber plantations in Vietnam. Conditions at these plantations led to the famous labour movement Phu Rieng Do. This event is the center of the book.

Victor and Jessie leave France for Vietnam to get an eyes on view of the rubber plantations and employee conditions. At least that is what Jessie convinces Victor is the reason. Victor is an overlooked Michelin descendant through this mother. He will grasp at anything to improve his position in the company. Jessie becomes an unwitting accomplice in Victor’s activities which brings her to the attention of Marcelle deFabry and Khoi Nguyen. It was common for wealthy Vietnamese families to send their male adult children to France for schooling. Many of these young men were fed up with the French control of Vietnam and with the help of French students spread the word that communism was the way to bring independence to Vietnam.

The reason for Jessie’s behavior in Vietnam is somewhat obvious. Marcelle is deliciously devious. Victor is repulsive given his need for power and Khoi is charming and conflicted. Thank you netgalley.com to read this well crafted story.

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A hundred Suns
It's 1933 and we're in Indochine, the French colony that is now Vietnam. Victor and Jessie Michelin Lesage along with daughter Lucie have come to Hanoi to become caretakers of the family's rubber plantations. It is a world of glamour, luxurious homes set in sumptuous surroundings Quite different from that of the natives, who are there to serve the wealthy. But there is an undercurrent beneath the affluent society, not just a restlessness, but something more devious, more dangerous. As Jessie befriends Marcelle de Fabry it is soon apparent to her not all is quite right. Yet Jessie has her own demons, secrets she guards and secrets she is running away from while Marcelle is steeped in her own ambitions, her own devious selfishness.

Ms. Tanabe has painted a picture in words, words that take you back to another place in time. This book and the picture it paints is stunning, there is no other way to describe it. She is a gifted writer, her research is impeccable her story telling draws you in from page one. As you read this novel you feel as if you are right there, you can easily visualize the scenes, the descriptions, you too are aware of the scents that wrap themselves around the characters. As you read along, it is easy to see how the history of Indochina became the catalyst for the war in Vietnam.

My thanks to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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This book was a very fascinating read that had a few unforeseen twists, it is an excellent end of summer read. It is a historical fiction book that takes place in Vietnam during the 1930s, which is still colonized by France at the time. The book that I would compare it to is “Tangerine” but “A Hundred Suns” is not as slow paced as “Tangerine” and the characters definitely captivate you more. I think the book could have been a bit more forthcoming on workers rights but they did somewhat address it. I like that this historical novel covered a topic outside of WWII as too many books in that genre do. It was fascinating to learn about a topic I did not know about and a location (Vietnam) that is rarely covered.

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This is the first book by Karin Tanabe that I have read and will be reading more of her works. A Hundred Suns is a historical fiction based in Indochina in the early 1930's and the Michelin family plantations there. Karin Tanabe has cast the main characters in such a way that has you eager to keep reading to find out what is going to happen next.

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I was already interested A Hundred Suns by Karin Tanabe after reading her wonderful previous novel, The Gilded Years. In A Hundred Suns, American Jessie Holland Lasage moves to Vietnam, or French Indochina as it was then known, along with her French husband Victor Michelin Lasage and their adorable daughter Lucie. Victor is coming over to supervise the Michelin rubber plantations, because his clever wife spotted an opportunity for a Michelin cousin to prove himself in the distant colony, and return in a few years to a higher post in the inner circle back in France.

At least, that's the idea. As the story progresses, and Jessie meets more of the expat circle, everyone seems to have complicated motives for moving abroad. At first, her new friend Marcelle seems like another bored expat wife, but she has a Vietnamese boyfriend and ties to communist rebels. Jessie's husband may be mixed up in the Michelin family's darker side, cruelly exploiting local workers.

Jessie has been pretty much the master of controlling her narrative through careful omission and stretches of the truth. She's reinvented herself several times. Victor gives her a watch with an orange on it, because for him, the surname Holland means William of Orange, and not backwoods poverty like it does for Jessie. She is almost an unreliable narrator, since she's keeping so many secrets, and having such strange memory lapses.

Each character here has their own complex motivations and goals. The author shows how each person is affected by their past experiences, and each person thinks they're doing what must be done.  So it's easy for readers to sympathize with more than one character, even when they're in opposition to each other.

This is a compelling ensemble novel with a satisfying but realistic conclusion.

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This is one of those books that, if you have to put it down, you can't wait to return to it. The historical detail evoked by the author is amazing--she makes all of the individual characters compelling, both the wealthy colonial tycoons and the ordinary people just trying to survive amid a world that cannot go on much longer before major changes come.

The female narrators are engaged in a psychological drama, both not understanding one another enough, and in other ways all too well. I find myself thinking about the characters even several days after finishing the book.

Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for the ARC!

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I originally was approved for this digital advance reader copy in August 2019, but put off reading it until March 2020 because the publisher’s blurb didn’t really compel me. I doubted why I even picked this out of the catalog to request. However, once I brought myself to start it, I couldn’t put it down. Despite late nights at the office, I finished it in a little over a week.

The novel starts out in early September 1933, with one of the two female narrators having just arrived in French Indochina. The second chapter, told by the same narrator, fast forwards to a traumatic event in late November 1933. The third chapter, told by the same narrator, then goes back to the same timeframe as the first chapter and adds a little more flesh to the events of the first chapter. From there, the narrative proceeds like a dance of the seven veils, roughly alternating between female narrators to gradually reveal the true nature of each of the narrators and to build out the sense of place in that particular time. Approximately fifty pages from the end, the tale reaches late November 1933 and essentially duplicates the second chapter. Knowing so much more about the people and the place brings the climactic event into a new light. From there, the plot feels like it glides to its end in early January 1934.

The main reasons for my enjoyment of this book were the psychological tension and the setting. The psychological tension of this novel was as well developed as recent books that were billed as psychological thrillers. I’m specifically thinking of Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward, which made me both gasp and hold my breath. However, I’m much more inclined toward historical fiction than psychological thrillers. This book definitely was a well developed historical fiction - relying on the sights and sounds experienced by the narrators to develop the sense of time and place. And the choice of colonial French Indochina between the Wars was refreshing. The historical fiction genre seems to be suffering a glut of European World War II settings, so much so that our book club has ventured out of historical fiction into contemporary fiction, where there is so much more variety. This novel, untainted by the shadows of either War, was a very interesting change in tone from the inevitable darkness and heaviness that accompanies European World War II novels.

Overall, I enjoyed this book so much more than I ever expected. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys odd historical fiction, as well as to anyone who enjoys a slower burning psychological thriller.

I received this book as a digital advance reader copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Beautifully wrought novel predominantly set in 1933 Indochina.

American Jessie Lesage and her husband French Victor Michelin Lesage travel from Paris to Indochina, ostensibly to oversee the Michelin rubber plantations there. While that is one of the reasons, the main push was done by Jessie, as she frantically tries to escape her past.

In Indochina, she meets and is memorized by Marcelle, a Frenchwoman with a communist past and a long term lover in native Khoi Nguyen.

Layer by layer a rich history is built, of people, countries, affairs and more. The heat of A Hundred Suns indeed.

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A Hundred Suns captivated me instantly because it was set in 1930s Indochine,a place and time I've never read about.A rich relative of the Michelin family(yes, the tires) moves his family from Paris, France to Indochine to run the family's rubber plantation amd make some changes. It's a whole different society than what the Michelins are used to but they are all drawn into the culture and society.There's talk of alot of the native people being communist and the deaths and jailings of these communists as well as how workers are treted in the plantation.Jessie, the wife of the Michelin heir,(Victor) befriends Marcelle de Fabry,a mysterious carefree woman with a secret vendetta ahainst the Michelin family. Her lover and her plot the demise of Jessie's sanity in an attempt to make her fo back to Paris.
What I loved about this story is how Marcelle despite being vengeful is really just a woman seeking justice for her friend who died. She faults Jessie's family. Jessies was certainly underestimated by Marcelle and herself because of her proverty stricken upbringing and family history of mental illness that she hides from Victor. The The native people of Indochine,play an important role in both Jessie and Marcelle's life despite seeming to be secondary. Both women have different motives that are driven by heartache and by the end you feel empathy for both of them in some way. Issues of class,sex and race are also prominent in the telling of this story and it's a great ride.

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A rich and elegant story. Victor, who is French and his American wife Jessie, move to French Indochina to supervise the family’s rubber plantation. It was actually Jessie who nudged Victor to make the move. Jessie is sure that when Victor proves successful, he will move up in the company. Those in charge, the wealthy, live in luxury, but their employees often did not even have enough to eat. I am not always a big fan of historical fiction but this was historical fiction at its very best.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Thank you to netgalley.com for this ARC.

I had never heard of this author but am a fan of historical fiction and this one did not disappoint. I really enjoyed this book which takes place in Hanoi. It's not an area I usually read about so found this interesting. It tells a fictionalized account of family members of the Michelin family in the 1930's.

There is some mystery and suspense tied into the story as well....I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to fans of historical fiction.

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I had never heard of this author, and now I can't wait to read the rest of her titles. A Hundred Suns was interesting -- the hook early on was marvelous -- as well as extremely well-crafted. Characterizations, natural-sounding dialogue, and shifting between time periods seemed effortless. From the first chapter to the unexpected ending, I thoroughly enjoyed both the story and learning about some Vietnamese culture and history.

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I thoroughly enjoyed this historical novel of Vietnam and the Michelin family. Well written and researched showing the early rise of communism in French Indochine. Highly reccommend for those who like historical fiction and those baby boomers who want a bit more history of how the Vietnam war began years before our involvement.

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Karin Tanabe brings to life the beautiful lands of Vietnam, but through the lens of unwelcome invaders of the 1920s and ’30s, when the country was called Indochine. The French colonial time period is another sad era these graceful lands and peoples have endured at the hands of foreigners.
The Michelin rubber plantations in Indochine are a huge money-making machine for the French, but they’re a form of torture and slow death for the local inhabitants, or as cruelly labeled by the French, “coolies”, who are treated to be less than human.
The book centers on a few of the families who’ve moved to Indochine to enjoy the wealth, spoils and rewards bestowed upon the winning invaders. Tanabe does an exquisitely beautiful job of showing the foreigners’ lack of compassion and total obliviousness to their cruelty as they drink, eat and cavort, flaunting their ostentatious displays of wealth.
This book is packed full of richly colorful and deep-running characters; some born rich, some born poor, and most caught in the middle of political tugs of war. How their lives interweave is fascinating, and the plot is believable, heart-wrenching, and finally at times somewhat redeeming.
I thoroughly enjoy a good historical fiction novel, especially when it doesn’t gloss over the painful truth. This is truly a sobering and engrossing historical fiction read.
(I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review. Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for making it available.)

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This book was a complete escape into someone else's world, lies of omission, and family drama. I loved it! The characters were strong and complicated. The feeling of being there at that moment in history swept me away. Thank you for the great read!

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A historical novel, set in Vietnam in the 1920's, early 1930's. The haves and the have not, mystery, intrigue and revenge, centered around the Michelin rubber plantation. I was totally engaged in the setting, the story line and the characters. I enjoyed reading this book! Thanks to Net Galley and the publisher for the opportunity to read an advance copy.

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A first by me by this author and just WOW!! Thank you to St.Martins press and Netgalley for my ARC copy in exchange for my honest review. These are my opinions and mine alone. This is an amazing historical fiction read filled with suspens and mystery right until the last page! Truley compelling and a page turner! I loved Jessie and Victors story and the timeline as Ive read many in this time period thhis authors detail to time and that era are amazing! a must read for sure!!!!

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I just finished A Hundred Suns and I really enjoyed the book. It is a great read for those that love historical fiction and would like to learn more about how the French colonized Indochina (Vietnam and other countries) while following a riveting story. The book kept me up late each night and I finished it in just a few days. There were some twists at the end that I wasn't expecting. I definitely recommend it!

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I live in Greenville, SC where the Michelin North America Headquarters is so I was excited to read this book. It’s a bit slow to start BUT very interesting. I found the lead, Jessie, likeable and enjoyed her story. I found the history of Michelin so interesting and learning about Indochine fascinating. The author did a good job filling in holes but I do feel like the event that drove the plot was a bit weak and kind of unrealistic. I wasn’t expecting the thriller type turn 1/2 way through the book so I loved that angle. The ending wraps up super quick and but I feel like it was a decent length and I wouldn’t have preferred it being drawn out.

There were several twists I didn’t anticipate but there were stories that felt unsettled/unresolved.

Overall, I REALLY enjoyed this book and would recommend it to others.

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I absolutely loved this book and am happy to discover this author. This book takes place in French colonized Indochine (now Vietnam) which makes it truly fascinating and unique to historical fiction readers. What really stands out even more than the locale, though, is the suspenseful story and great character development. I wanted the story to never end as I got caught up with the characters- especially the main character, Jessie. The back and forth of the plot at the beginning is very well done and when you move through the book and get back to that first chapter, you understand where the book is going. I couldn’t put this book down and recommend it highly.
Please note that I read this book for free in exchange for an unbiased netgallery review.

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This historical novel is set in the 1930's Indochine and evokes the character of the ex-pat community of the times in general and the inner lives of the protagonists specifically. It also explores the living conditions of the plantation workers versus the social life of the plantation owners. Each have an agenda and the major characters all have secrets. It is beautifully written and has many surprises.

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In this story, which follows Victor Lesage, his wife Jessie, and their daughter Lucie as they embark on their journey from France to one of the French Colonial territories of Indochine, now Vietnam in the 1930's. Victor has been sent to oversee the the Michelin families rubber plantations as his mother is a Michelin, and he hopes to further his career.
Also living there is Marcelle de Fabry, her husband and her lover Khoi Nguyen.
Marcelle, show Jessie the ins and outs of ex-pat life, which is very different from what she was used to in France.
The story mainly goes between Jessie and Marcelle's observations as we follow the reasons that they both ended up there, and the relationship they each have formed, and the things they are running from.
From Communist threats, to Opium dens, to a lavish life style, Both Jessie and Marcelle, need to see what woks for them, in a place full of threats and dangers as they navigate things, they think they know.
Suspenseful, full of mystery and misunderstandings.
Well written story.
I would like to thank NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for the ARC of this book.

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Stunning!! And devastating! And by the end of this lyrical book, life is as beautiful as the sun. I am mixing metaphors here, when I say that this book is like a kabuki performance. Kabuki is a traditional and stylized Japanese form of drama, and this book takes place in colonial Indochina, now Viet Nam. Still, the sweeping and rich blend of romance, suspense, history, as shown through the food, scenery, clothing and manners of the time is presented in the stylized manner of kabuki. Each character is trapped in their role and must perform according to the rules of the times. (And by “kabuki” I don’t mean to imply that this book is inaccessible to a reader. A Hundred Suns is thrilling, exciting, puzzling and glorious, you must read it in one sitting.)

So, who are the character in the insular world of Indochina in the 1930’s? The main character that looms overall, is Michelin et Cie. Then comes Jessie, an American, who has managed to achieve her dream of leaving her life of poverty behind by marrying a rich member of the Michelin family. She lives in Paris with her husband, Victor. Although he is not a major Michelin, he seizes the opportunity to take his wife and child to Hanoi, Indochina, France’s colony to manage Michelin’s two large rubber plantations.

Another set of characters, also with a Michelin interest are the French Marcelle, her Indochine lover Khoi and their two close friends. Marcelle and Khoi met as students in Paris and reunited in Hanoi. Khoi is the scion of a major “native” silk producer. Their paths collide with Victor and Jessie in a diabolical and sinister way.

Another major part of the book are the places- Paris and Hanoi. Both are well described with lush scenes that show the sophistication, culture and facades of Paris, the weather, natural beauty, food, and societal structure of Hanoi. In the midst of beauty and wealth, Capitalism battles Communism, Jessie struggles with her past, Marcelle and Khoi strive to right a wrong.

The story begins on a specific day, November, 20, 1933 in Hanoi, and then flashes back to the events that lead to the catastrophic denouement on this day. Are dreams and hopes, guided by the sun enough?

Highly, highly recommend. Many thanks to NetGalley and the Publisher, St. Martin’s Press for aa digital review copy. This is my honest review.

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A wonderfully written novel that covers Indochine (Vietnam) in the 1930s and the cultural differences between the “elite” and locals. The story follows an American, Jessie Lesage, and her husband, Victor Michelin Lesage, and daughter as they travel to the Michelin families rubber plantation in Indochine. Karin Tanabe paints a beautiful picture of the land through her words and allows the reader to witness and understand an era that is not as familiar. A great read that had me thinking for days after.

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This is the fabulous story of Jessie Lesage. An American woman accompanying her French husband Victor to the shores of vietnam during the 1930s. Money makes the world go round and no matter the date, this is always true.

I found Jessie to be quite an fascinating woman. Soaked in intrigued and the secrets that spiral around her, add a charm and mystery to her that made me want to know more and more. The life she leads begins to wear thin and a power struggle emerges around her...... The life she has built is fraught with holes and the whole thing becomes quite an ordeal.. The glitz and glamour soon start to lose their shine and the whole story comes to the climax of the symphony and I couldn't stop my jaw dropping!

I thoroughly enjoyed the setting, the characters blew me away and the author had a real way of building a world around you that you never want to emerge from. If you are looking for the kind of historical fiction that will keep you on your toes and have you thirsting for more than this book is the one for you. I loved everything about it and now I'm hunting for more of this incredible authors work. This extravaganza of a read while ensnare your senses and make you lose track of your day.

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