When I read a book like this, which is a translation of a book that was written in a very different language about a very different culture, I do wonder how much of the original story I am actually getting. The feat of translation is awesome and it must have been perhaps even more difficult to translate than was the original story was to write. Obviously I have no way of knowing how faithful the translation is to the original, but can only judge the translated version. What I get is a sort of understanding of what it is to be Chinese. They are, as you would expect, a more simple and less worldly people and problems are solved in more primitive ways that are quite alien to us. Their understanding of the function of government is quite different to our own. The story itself is gripping and although the book is very long, I got through it in a week, even though I am not normally a keen reader.
I hate it when reviewers spoil the story for me so I won't do that for you. People who complain about human rights abuse in China would do well to read this book. It does not in anyway excuse such abuse, but it gives a flavour of the context in which it is happening and the meteoric changes that are occurring to a relatively unsophisticated populous.
Perhaps a warning is in order; if you are a bit squeamish this book is extremely violent and heartbreaking in parts and should only be read after the watershed.