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“This book literally changed my life. Worth reading for everyone. Loved it. A true story, and definitely a sad one, but amazing!!!!! Can't say enough about it.”see full review » see other reviews »
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“Blech! I have finally slogged my way through to the end of this interminable book. It took me 7 weeks to read it, and that is a testimony to my perseverance rather than a desire to draw out the reading. Too many people, places, events to keep track of. I was left with an appreciation of the...”see full review » see other reviews »
“Wild Swans is the story of the author's family, the "three daughters" of the subtitle representing three generations. The first, Chang's grandmother, Yu-fang, was born in 1909 into a traditional Imperial China on the brink of great changes. Two years after her birth the centuries old Manchu dynasty came to an end and China became a republic. As a toddler, she was among the last women to endure the practice of crippling footbinding and as a young teen was virtually sold by her father to become a warlord's concubine. Her daughter, De-hong, in her teens worked for the Red Army resisting the Japanese occupation. She married an idealistic, uncorruptible communist who'd become a high-ranking official in Mao's People's Republic. That was the world Jung Chang was born into in 1951. One where a privileged life would largely isolate her from the effects of the man-made famine caused by the "Great Leap Forward" that took tens of millions of lives--but then came the Cultural Revolution. Her account is both farcical and heart-breaking. Mao, as she put it, was a man with a "metaphysical disregard for reality" and a "deep-seated contempt for human life." The consequences for the country, that was taught to regard him as an Emperor-God, was catastrophic.
I think, when it's done well--and this is done very well--that there's probably no better way to really absorb and become engrossed in history than through biography. It's one thing to be told the bare facts and statistics--or even told isolated stories about people. It's another to learn enough about a family that they become real people in your mind, then learn the details about how such events as the Japanese Occupation, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the Great Famine and Cultural Revolution affected them. What happened to her father was particularly heart-breaking. But when I was moved to tears, it wasn't the suffering that undid me--but the later happiness given all that had come before. Through the story of Chang's family she's able to tell, vividly, movingly, engrossingly, the story of China in the 20th century.”
“A memoir of 3 generations of women from about 1920 to about 2000. The best single introduction to China's recent history with an intimate perspective that I know of.”Keith G. Bernard wrote this review Friday, September 20, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“This book is so beautiful and heart-breaking at the same time: while, we learn about the details of the lives of Chinese people along three generations we also see the love that, no matter how hard times were and how many forces forced the family apart, prevailed.
Interesting and truthful tale of China.
“Chang spans three generations of women to include herself in describing life under brutal Chairman Mao's control in this hard to put down tome. Chang provides historical context (Pu Yi who abdicated as emperor of Manchukuo to the Japanese, p. 60) recounting the battle between the Kuomintang and Chinese Communists, the Russians who came after the overthrow of the Kuomintang, the eight years of Japanese brutality (p. 63) then eventual oppression by Mao and his cohorts. She recounts how millions endured starvation, and inane controls exacted by Mao fomenting civil unrest and brutality against their own by their own. Chang tells of her own doubts about Mao's policies and treatment of the population while growing up under brutal conditions for her, her family and everyone in China even though her family were part of the elite and had special treatment, they too were brutalized. She eventually succeeds by going to college in China majoring in English, leaving for Britain to practice her English, marries a Brit and gets her Ph. D in Linguistics. A fascinating read, triumphant example of how the human spirit can and does prevail. Chang provides without reservation the historical context on why and how China is the way she is today into the 21st century. Book well worth your time.”RT wrote this review Tuesday, August 20, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“One of the best books I've read to date. This is definitely a great read for those who would like to know a thing or more about China. It includes extensive details of China which are mostly left out in most novels/books, especially in the aspects of its culture and politics. E.g. how a culture came about.
“An insight into a China you don't normally see.”Matt Owens Rees wrote this review Tuesday, August 13, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Bitter. Striking. Amazing. Hard to imagine how people survived all this terror and remained human. Actually, I don't believe they did.”Katerina Kovaleva wrote this review Friday, June 14, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“An excellent combination of memoir and really good history. Absolutely tragic. ”Josh D wrote this review Thursday, May 30, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“This is my second reading of this book. It follows the path of 3 women, named Swan, depicting life in each of their generations in China, ending with the death of Mao. This book provides an interesting perspective through the eyes of the women who lived then. High recommend.”Barb S wrote this review Sunday, May 19, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No