Wild Swans - Jung Chang

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Wild Swans - Jung Chang

Non-Fiction - Biography - ISBN: 0385425473

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Review of "Wild Swans - Jung Chang"

published 18/09/2005 | fluffchillin
Member since : 16/02/2004
Reviews : 12
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Pro Eye opening, moving and beautifully written
Cons A sad story in places
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"Truly Moving"

Wild Swans is a truly exceptional book; few pieces of writing have ever been able to move me in the way this masterpiece has!

I never had the chance to study any history about China when I was at school, but have always been very keen to learn about it so a teacher recommended Wild Swans to me.

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China is an excellent book to introduce you to Chinese history as it is written by Jung Chang, a remarkable woman, who tells the tragic history of China's twentieth century through three generations of women in her own family - her grandmother, her mother and herself!

The story begins with Jung Chang's grandmother's experiences as a girl growing up in China at the beginning of the twentieth century. Girls in those days were seen as inferior to boys, and it was much preferred to bare a son rather than a daughter as they were of less use to you. However Chang's grandmother; Jade, was lucky enough to be possessed with good looks and so after a painful childhood of having her feet constantly bound, she became a concubine to a rich war lord. Unfortunately, the war lord died and Jade fled with her daughter away from his wife! It is a sad story with a happy ending as she meets and falls in love with a young doctor who she marries.

During the time of her marriage to the war lord I will quickly point out that China was fighting against the Japanse who had invaded them. The book is so useful because whilst telling a story it explains what happened in China at the time as well! So the Communists were fighting against the Japanse, and people began to think that the "Reds" were right - it seemed to be an era of great change and many people got caught up in the emotions of the Communists - so did Chang's parents (i.e. Jade's daughter and her husband.)

Both of Chang's parents grew up in the rising of Communism and later on in life both were important party officials however there positions did change with their beliefs. The book shows very effectively how Mao (the Communist leader) invaded everyone's life and indoctrinated those who grew up in his era. Family life, social life, work, breathing and living was all done in the name of the Communist party. During the years of Mao, as the book shows excellently, there was no space for emotion, there was only room for the Party. Wild swans takes you through the tumultuous changes of the Communist Party - the good times and the not so good when China under went horrific starvation and famine.

Chang herself grew up during the Communist era and at many stages she felt very much indoctrinated by Chairman Mao. At 14 she became a Red Guard under taking Mao's wishes of destroying everything which was not seen as Communist. Shortly after she worked as a peasant so that she could learn the value of not being from a high class background and learning to be equal too. Lucky for her she was able to work in a steel factory later on in life and finally became an electrician which allowed her to learn and study! Although, as time went on, she began secretly to doubt him beause of the terrible things that the party put her family through. Chang was one of the few lucky ones; although everyone was supposed to be equal the official's children seemed to be those who prospered more ... i.e. Chang and her brothers and sisters. She was very lucky to become educacted unlike the millions of others at the time, and even more lucky because she learnt English which enabled her to gain a scholarship at the University of York. If she hadn't no one would have known the extraordinary things that went on in China under Mao's reign.

Chang shows us the insanity of the regime; making us realise how truly lucky we are today. Mao was so obsessed with making sure that no one doubted him that he did crazy things to ensure everyone followed him; this included destroying beautiful chinses heritage and making sure that everyone dressed and looked the same. Suspicion was rife, and many people accused others purely on the basis of jealousy or dislike.

This book is a gripping masterpiece! If you read one book this year I really suggest it be this one! Chung manages to make history come alive; her writing is excellent and she incorporates her past so effectively into the story of China. I found it impossible to put down as it evokes many emotions; I think you can relate to the sadness, pity, terror and fear felt by those who suffered under Mao. At the same time I felt admiration and delight in places as well as a mixture of despair when things went horribly wrong!

This book is a work of art! Compelling and interesting, fascinating and truthful! Whilst describing three generations of women from one family, Chang also explains China's dark and mysterious history during the twentieth century and the great changes and developments the country and her people have been through! It is a definite must read!

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Comments on this review

  • kollarosie published 19/09/2005
    Can't believe I haven't read this yet - brill review.
  • torr published 19/09/2005
    It is indeed a moving book. China during the Cultural Revolution was a truly monstrous place. Duncan
  • MAFARRIMOND published 19/09/2005
    An amazing book - well reviewed. Maureen
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Product Information : Wild Swans - Jung Chang

Manufacturer's product description

Non-Fiction - Biography - ISBN: 0385425473

Product Details

Author: Jung Chang

Title: Wild Swans

Genre: Biography

Type: Non-Fiction

ISBN: 0385425473

EAN: 9780385425476


Listed on Ciao since: 11/07/2000