Wild Swans

This book , the story of author Jung Chang’s family history, is very long, but very engrossing and fascinating though in a very morbid sort of way. It’s the story of Jung, her mother and her grandmother, spanning nearly a century of China’s history. The book moves from the Manchu empire and Japanese occupation, through the revolution by the Kuomintang and then the counter-revolution by the Communists, and finally the whole of Mao Tse-tung’s reign/rule. Fascinating Chinese history, if you’re interested in that sort of thing. But, above that, it’s a story of three women and their struggle to survive. I wasn’t that interested in the grandmother or the mother (except it paints a very interesting portrait of life as a woman Communist official, and it isn’t pretty). What fascinated me most was the intellectual journey Jung took from a child worshipping Mao, to a staunch disbeliever in Communism in general, and what Chinese communism has become. This book reminded me a lot of a couple of great movies by Zhang Yimou: To Live and The Story of Qiu Ju; all three deal with every day life under the Communists, and paint very interesting personal stories. The parts about the Cultural Revloution give and interesting comparison (from what I can remember) to Life and Death in Shanghi. And makes me very interested to read Chang’s new book, Mao: The Unknown Story. Good read.

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