Monday, February 08, 2021

Review: A Hundred Suns by Karin Tanabe (audio)


Title: A Hundred Suns
Author: Karin Tanabe
Narrator: Angela Dawe, Emily Ellet
Published: April 2020, Macmillan Audio / St. Martin's Press
Length: 13 hours 39 minutes / 400 pages
Source: Audio via Library / Print via Publisher

Summary:
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.


 

My thoughts:  This is the first book I've read by Karin Tanabe and while I've had this one sitting on my shelf for a while, I'm so glad I finally picked it up. It's all thanks to a buddy read that I finally got to this one and I cannot believe I waited so long - it was so good!

As I've said before and I know I'll say again - I love reading historical fiction for all the places it takes me and all the little bits I end up learning. And this one had a bit of a mystery in it which really kept me engaged and glued to the pages. I really find that historical mysteries are my thing - I can't get enough of them and haven't found one that I didn't like.

I haven't read a book set during this time-frame or setting - Vietnam in the 1930s and I was so intrigued what by was going on. The characters and the setting just came to life in this book and while there were some parts that did drag a little, for the most part, I really did enjoy this one. 

One thing that struck me and really kept me engaged is that you get the sense that things are not as they seem almost right away. This book was so atmospheric and while you have two sides working against each other, you can't help but wonder what is going to happen next. There is such a disparity between the native workers who are just trying to get better working and living conditions for themselves and their families, while the French colonists are living life to the extreme, spending time at the clubs, smoking opium and living quite extravagant lives. 

I highly recommend picking this one up and I will definitely reading more from this author!


Audio thoughts: This book translated really well to audio. Both narrators did a great job with their parts and I found myself glued to the book and even though it was on the longer side, I ended up finishing this one in two days because I just could not put it down. The pacing and intonation was just right and both narrators managed to infuse just the right amount of emotion and tension into their voices as needed. I really enjoyed this audio.


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