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Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China Paperback – 5 Apr 2004


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Product details

  • Paperback: 720 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; New edition edition (5 April 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007176155
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007176151
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 4.1 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (358 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 262,038 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

‘It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of this book.’ Mary Wesley

‘Mesmerising.’ Antonia Fraser, The Times

‘Everything about “Wild Swans” is extraordinary. It arouses all the emotions, such as pity and terror, that great tragedy is supposed to evoke, and also a complex mixture of admiration, despair and delight at seeing a luminous intelligence directed at the heart of darkness.’ Minette Marrin, Sunday Telegraph

‘Immensely moving and unsettling; an unforgettable portrait of the brain-death of a nation.’ J. G. Ballard, Sunday Times

‘“Wild Swans” made me feel like a five-year-old. This is a family memoir that has the breadth of the most enduring social history.’ Martin Amis, Independent on Sunday

'Riveting…an extraordinary epic.' Mail on Sunday

‘Of all the personal histories to have emerged out of China’s twentieth-century nightmare, “Wild Swans” is the most deeply thoughtful and the most heart-rending I’ve read.’ Spectator

‘There has never been a book like this.’ Edward Behr, Los Angeles Times

About the Author

Jung Chang was born in Yibin, Sichuan Province, China, in 1952. She was briefly a Red Guard at the age of fourteen, and then a peasant, a ‘barefoot doctor’, a steelworker and an electrician. She came to Britain in 1978, and in 1982 became the first person from the People’s Republic of China to receive a doctorate from a British university. She lives in London.


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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

115 of 117 people found the following review helpful By Ally on 19 July 2005
Format: Paperback
I was reluctant to finish this book, because it was so absorbing that I felt my days would be sadly lacking without more pages to turn and devour. I will undoubtedly re-read it before long, as did the person who lent me the book.
This is a sensitive yet in places deeply shocking exploration of the lives of three generations of women in one Chinese family, beginning in 1909 and ending (in print at least) in 1991. The stories are of a grandmother who was concubine to a warlord, a mother torn between her duties towards her family and to the Party, and the author Jung Chang (or Er-hong, one of the 'wild swans' of the title), who charts her mental battle against (or submission to) the relentless indoctrination of the Mao regime, and depicts her family's hardships under Communism and beforehand.
The intelligent account begins in a China where the people distance themselves from politics and are crippled by their own senseless restrictions and rigid traditions, and describes the transformation to a China equally constrained but much changed. While life at first improves as a result of the rise of Communism, the irrational taboos and regulations soon return, but now in a political and violently enforced form. This is the atmosphere in which the protagonist grows up. It is still a China of persecution, vendettas and hardship, and now ruled by Mao, who wants control of every aspect of his people's lives, and he achieves his control by setting groups and individuals against each other and maintaining a climate of fear and mindless adulation.
Descriptions of China's romantic beauty and subtle culture sit side-by-side with tales of horrifying cruelty and absurdity, leading the reader on an unpredictable and tumultuous journey, which evoked in me unfailing empathy and admiration for Jung Chang.
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 7 Dec 1999
Format: Paperback
Wild Swans is a magnificent book, telling the story of a family over three generations from the Boxer Rebellion, to the Peoples Revolution and the Cultural Revolutions. It can be said that China has a most colourful history, but this story is very very black in parts. Wild Swans will bring you on a journey of love and hope, and it will also throw you into a pit of dispare. Jung Changs experiences through her own eyes and that of her family are brought to life in this book. The imagery is vivid and the emmotions will grab you and tie you down. Whilst reading Wild Swans I felt anger and hatred at Mao and his minions.I found the events of the cultural revolution insane, Why? I must have asked this a hundred times. Yet Changs explains Mao's magnetism, his ability to manipulate the masses, and the fear he drove deep into the peoples hearts. With one hand he would offer hope and with the other he would bring suffering. Wild Swans is a prime example of the fight of the human spirit. It is within us all and Changs has brought her familys spirit to life in this book. If you are considering going to China read this book. It gives a great insight into the minds of the Chinese people. All though times have changed, they are still a tough, hardworker and honest people who simply hope for a good life.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Gary Selikow on 17 Jun 2008
Format: Paperback
Wild Swans is a candid and harrowing account of three remarkable Chinese women -grandmother, mother and daughter- but also gives us a very good picture of what China was like from the turn of the Century to the 1980's
We learn about the ancient culture of the Chinese which included much that was beautiful and some that seems cruel. We learn of the hope of so many Chinese that the overthrow of the Kuomintang would lead to a' just social order' but how it soon became clear that the worst excesses of the Kuomintang and those of Imperial China before that paled into insignificance compared to the hell on earth created by Mao's Chinese Communist Party
One is left aghast that a system can destroy even the most basic human instincts of decency and compassion while turning people into inhumane monsters totally possessed -as if by a demon - by a cruel and totally destructive system
It sends shivers down one's spine to realise that 'The Great Helmsman' Mao Ze Dong -who ranks with Hitler and Stalin as among the most evil men of the 20th century-had his image worn on T-shirts by 'progressive' students and youth in the west and these same young 'champions of equality' hung large pictures of Mao in their dormitory rooms .This at the same time as millions of Chinese were being slaughtered and physically and psychologically maimed on the orders of Mao and his Chinese Communist Party -as described in this book.
Today many in the West laud the economic 'reforms' towards a type of totalitarian 'capitalist' system but fail to remember that human rights have not improved at all and China is still a hideous and inhuman hell for hundreds of millions of its inhabitants.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By David Snowdon on 26 Jun 2006
Format: Paperback
Jung Chang is supposedly one of the most successful Chinese authors; yet her work is banned in her native country and she now lives in London, England. I first heard about "Wild Swans" several years ago but never got around until reading it until now. Now I've read it I'm sorry that I waited so long.

A quote on the cover says "It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of this book." - I thought to myself that this must be exaggeration. I expected the book to be interesting; I wanted to find out more about China's recent history and I was sure it would be interesting to read what it was like to live through the cultural revolution, but I didn't think its importance would be more than a bit of human interest. I was wrong: the quote is right on the money. This book is important especially if you're like me and thought that you understood enough about China. I thought that I knew what the cultural revolution was about. I thought it was just some craziness in which doctors, administrators and other professionals were sent to work in the fields. What I had no idea about was what it was really like for the people involved. I had also thought that the Chinese government was uniformly bad, responsible as it has been for the invasion of Tibet and gross human rights violations. While that is true, it seems that, like many things, the truth is more complex than it first appears. But this book is more than just dry historical fact - it packs an emotional punch that is hard to overstate. Not only is great suffering described but also great courage and bravery. I often found myself wondering how I would have acted if I found myself in similar situations to the author's parents and whether I would have the courage to act as they did.
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