Through the clear eyes and rather dispassionate voice of Aiping Mu is revealed her family's story and the idiosyncrasies, privations, optimism and horrors of life in 20th-century China. Now in England, where she has gained a PhD, Aiping has land-owning forebears--a fact which would haunt her family after the rise of Communism. Her parents were early converts to Communism who were given senior status by the Party only to be later persecuted, imprisoned and tortured during the Cultural Revolution when even combed hair was considered a sign of a hated bourgeois intellectual. Aipings childhood was privileged, but her teenage years, when she joined the Red Guard, a struggle. By the time she was recruited to the army and achieved a university place to study medicine, she had endured years of political persecution, humiliation, family separations and rural starvation. Her adult life was made miserable by a disastrous marriage and the painful disintegration of her family.
Vermilion Gate seems unsparingly honest about Chinese society, the traumatic breakdown of a family and Aipings ultimate loss of faith in Communism. It describes a world which, to Western eyes, at times seems almost that of a folk tale it is so unfamiliar. A work of biblical proportions, reading this saga requires a degree of stamina, but the committed will be enriched by a far greater understanding of the culture and history of this totally different world. --Karen Tiley
Mu's life story is so remarkable that even the barest outline is difficult to absorb . . . comparisons to Jung Chang's Wild Swans are inevitable, but Mu's book is similar only in that it is long and gripping . . . it provides a rare glimpse of life in the highest revolutionary circles (THE TIMES
[A] highly readable memoir... (TLS
A gripping tale. (IRELAND ON SUNDAY