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The Flowers of War (Movie Tie-in Edition) Paperback – January 31, 2012

4.2 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“I have long been a fan of Geling Yan’s fiction for its power to disturb us out of our ordinary worlds…The Flowers of War is [a] riveting tale that touches us at the center of our being.” —Amy Tan, New York Times bestselling author of The Joy Luck Club

“I will never forget some of the characters in this short novel for their amazing acceptance of their destiny and their dignity throughout. That [Yan] was able to convey this with so much authority, yet so simply, is testament to [her] splendid talent.” –The Arts Fuse

“Yan’s book is oddly moving, with a chilling ending that celebrates the triumph of human goodness.” –Belletrista

“The prose…is clear and straightforward. The people are vividly drawn, believable, and capable of surprising the reader. As the characters’ situation grows more perilous, we come to truly care about their individual fates. The climax of the story provides an enormous emotional jolt. What happens is heartbreaking yet in a sense inspiring, making this a truly unforgettable novel.” –Historical Novel Society

About the Author

Geling Yan is one of the most acclaimed contemporary novelists and screenwriters in the Chinese language today and a well-established writer in English. Born in Shanghai in 1959, she served with the People's Liberation Army during the Cultural Revolution, starting aged 12 as a dancer in an entertainment troupe. She published her first novel in 1986 and since then has written over 20 books and won over 30 awards. Her works have been translated into twelve languages, several have been adapted for screen, the latest being The Flowers of War, which was filmed by Zhang Yimou and stars Christian Bale. Geling Yan currently divides her time between Berlin and China. --This text refers to the Unknown Binding edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Other Press (January 31, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590515560
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590515563
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #593,354 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By TChris TOP 500 REVIEWER on January 31, 2012
Format: Paperback
The Flowers of War takes place during the 1937 Nanking Massacre. Fleeing the fighting that accompanies the Japanese occupation of Nanking, women from a brothel climb the walls surrounding the church compound maintained by Father Engelmann. With hungry schoolgirls in the attic and sassy prostitutes in the cellar, the missionaries become desperately short of food, water, and patience. Hiding in the compound's graveyard is Major Dai, wounded after a skirmish with Japanese soldiers. When two more wounded Chinese soldiers arrive at the gate, Dai emerges and demands that they be sheltered. Father Engelmann faces a dilemma: if he turns them away, they will be captured and killed by the Japanese; if he gives them refuge, he will be compromising the neutrality of the church and placing the schoolgirls at risk. The story that follows touches upon the lives of those within the compound's walls as they try to avoid becoming victims of the war crimes committed by the Japanese Army.

Given the dramatic setting, much of the novel is surprisingly weak. The characters are well constructed but familiar; the prostitutes are similar to the other prostitutes who make regular appearances in Asian novels (including Geling Yan's infinitely superior The Lost Daughter of Happiness), while Father Engelmann channels the standard American priest serving in a distant land. We learn bits and pieces about the lives of various members of the ensemble cast, prostitutes and soldiers and students and missionaries, but not enough to appreciate any character completely. A schoolgirl named Shujuan is often spotlighted but we know little about her beyond her petty jealousies in matters of friendship.
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This novel shines a light on another holocaust of which many americans are unaware. When Japan tried to take China in 1937. It was brutal and this book taks as small corner of it and shows how one church and the young girls managed through it. It was also a testement to the endurance and bravery of many in the face of the horrors being perpitrated. The characters were believable and the style was very readable. Its one of those books you can't put down until you are done and you still want to know more.
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wow
what a story. One we have not heard enough of. One of redemption and courage during the horror of war. Oh we know all about the Nazi's but I think other than our soldiers who were in the pacific we have not been shown the horror of the Japanese occupations.
And the courage of those who stood up for freedom.
And just really how truely courageous those individuals were in any war.
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I wish I could say I came across this title of my own accord, but I must confess, it was Ni Ni's performance in the film adaptation that prompted me to track down a copy Geling Yan's The Flowers of War.

For those whose history is a little rusty, the Nanking (Nanjing) Massacre took place in December 1937. Estimates vary depending on the source, but the International Military Tribunal of the Far East claim more than 200,000 civilians and military personnel lost their lives to the soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army. It is in my opinion, one of the darkest and oft overlooked chapters of WWII.

I would have been attracted to this piece even if I'd never seen the film. I'd never come across a fictional version of the event and couldn't help being intrigued by the idea once I had. I wanted to see how a writer would treat the event, how they would go about constructing a story from the ashes and sorrow it left in its wake.

In this regard, Yan has real a gift. Her work gives faces to the victims of Nanking and voice to their silent tongues. Through the fiction experiences of Shujuan, Yumo, Hongling, Cardamom, Wang Pusheng, Major Dai, Father Englemann and Fabio, Yan tells the human side of war, weighing emotion and sentiment against the stark reality of history.

The Flowers of War is a plainly written piece, but no less moving for its simplicity. In point of fact I found the modest language and style of the piece one of its more attractive qualities not to mention highly appropriate to the rather bleak subject matter.

Finally, I would note that for all the similarity this is not the same story director Yimou Zang tells on film. Be prepared for that and try to judge each format in its own right.
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I really liked the book. It was written simply and easy to understand. There is war violence, but that is what the Rape of Nanking was all about and how the residents tried to save themselves from the Japanese.
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I thoroughly enjoyed the movie inspired by the book. A touch of Hollywood action and suspense with an ending which left things unsaid. The book cleverly written is without undue gore yet lets seep through the horror and realities of one of the biggest and largely unpunished war crimes of World War II committed by the army of so called more civilized Imperial Japan which went onto its pretended quest for an Asian sphere of co-prosperity. In face of disturbingly documented violence the author leaves the reader numb beyond hatred and startled at the inhumanity of war. The characters are contrasted in the surrounding death of a city gone silent only disturbed by the despair and anguish of the characters which put a face and albeit the be fictional names on the countless who suffered.
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