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The story of three generations in twentieth-century China that blends the intimacy of memoir and the panoramic sweep of eyewitness history—a bestselling classic in thirty languages with more than ten million copies sold around the world, now with a new introduction from the author.

An engrossing record of Mao’s impact on China, an unusual window on the female experience in the modern world, and an inspiring tale of courage and love, Jung Chang describes the extraordinary lives and experiences of her family members: her grandmother, a warlord’s concubine; her mother’s struggles as a young idealistic Communist; and her parents’ experience as members of the Communist elite and their ordeal during the Cultural Revolution. Chang was a Red Guard briefly at the age of fourteen, then worked as a peasant, a “barefoot doctor,” a steelworker, and an electrician. As the story of each generation unfolds, Chang captures in gripping, moving—and ultimately uplifting—detail the cycles of violent drama visited on her own family and millions of others caught in the whirlwind of history.

Topics: War, Survival, China, Family, Revolution, Communism, Courage, Civil and Political Rights, Heartfelt, Dramatic, Women in History, East Asia, Chinese History, Asian History, Mothers and Daughters, Tragic, 1960s, 1920s, 1950s, Escaping Oppression, Government, and Mao Zedong

Published: Touchstone on Jun 20, 2008
ISBN: 9781439106495
List price: $14.99
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I recently acquired this book after having read it several years ago. It's one woman's account of her experience, as well as that of her mother and grandmother, in Communist/Pre-Communist China. It's immensely fascinating, particularly if it's all new information to you. I enjoyed reading it a second time, though, as I had forgotten many of the gems hidden within it. Highly recommended.read more
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Good book - very moving account o fthe lives of Women in Chinaread more
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For those that like history but can't stomach non-fiction, this is one of several books here that I have flagged. But definitely the best. Amazingread more
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I recently acquired this book after having read it several years ago. It's one woman's account of her experience, as well as that of her mother and grandmother, in Communist/Pre-Communist China. It's immensely fascinating, particularly if it's all new information to you. I enjoyed reading it a second time, though, as I had forgotten many of the gems hidden within it. Highly recommended.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Good book - very moving account o fthe lives of Women in China
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
For those that like history but can't stomach non-fiction, this is one of several books here that I have flagged. But definitely the best. Amazing
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Good, but not great. It's nonfiction but is full of stilted dialogue which seems to take it into fiction-land - and not very good fiction at that. Having said that, it was a fascinating study of a period of history that I didn't know nearly well enough. I just wish she'd written either a strict nonfiction book, or else fictionalized it. This was an odd mishmash that didn't always work.
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WILD SWANS is my first serious foray into twentieth-century Chinese history. For one, I am not all that big on history and memoirs. For another, I have ambiguous feelings on contemporary China, due to my Taiwanese background and my current job in Shanghai. WILD SWANS, however, was an eye-opening look into the horrors of Mao’s China and the importance of keeping history—even the bad parts—in our memories.Chang writes with a narration that is largely devoid of drama—the only way that a writer can give this horrifying historical period the respect and literary justice it deserves. At times this type of narration can make the distance between reader, writer, and events feel greater, but I appreciated this style for this tale: there is no need to play up the actual events of the Cultural Revolution with forced or extravantly elaborated prose. The result is that there is no writerly manipulation of emotions, instead just the clean human reaction to scenes of inhumane horror, and a strengthening of the bond of humanity between all sorts of readers.Whether you’re not big on nonfiction but are interested in reading about twentieth-century Chinese history, or if you enjoy memoirs but know nothing about twentieth-century Chinese history, WILD SWANS will be a heart-wrenching and searing read.
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Wild Swans is a memoir of three generations of 20th century Chinese women, written by the granddaughter. The story starts with her grandmother, who undergoes foot binding as a child and is later sent off as one of the concubines of a warlord. After his death, she escapes with her daughter and marries a much older Manchurian doctor. The daughter grows up through the horrific Japanese occupation during WWII and then the following Chinese civil war, and becomes enamored with the communist dream. She marries a communist officer, and they become mid-level party elites. Jung Chang is born in 1952 into the volatile world of Chinese communism. Despite all three women having lives of privilege, all three also suffered very real horrors and hardships. One thing this book taught me is that in 20th century China, no one was exempt from suffering. Whether it was the traditional culture, WWII, or under communism, there is one word that describes this century in China: capricious.I had mixed feelings about this book. On the positive side, the book's strength is the author's ability to show how the historical events of these periods in China affected people's lives. It was certainly an engaging and interesting read. She showed how communism seemed like a dramatic improvement at first. She also showed how the cult of Mao consumed the culture.However, Wild Swans was written in a very factual style that left me cold. There was no dialogue at all. The grimness was unrelenting--on every page someone was tortured or just mistreated. For most of the book it appeared that the only kind people in all of China were her relatives. Everyone else was nasty at best.I suppose some of my disappointment was that I expected the book to be more literary and less mired down in minutia. It is one of the few memoirs on the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list, so I was expecting something more artistic. That said, perhaps the book was better for its lack of passion, as that may have been artifice. Just a thought.Recommended for: Unless you've read a lot about 20th century China, I recommend this book for everyone. This is an important story that needs to be widely known. I've read about traditional China, and about life under communism, but this book does an excellent job of showing the progression and how one came out of the other.
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