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Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China [Hardcover]

Jung Chang
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (326 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sep 1991

The publication of Wild Swans in 1991 was a worldwide phenomenon. Not only did it become the best-selling non fiction book in British publishing history, with sales of well over ten million, it was received with unanimious critical acclaim, and was named the winner of the 1992 NCR Book Award and the 1993 British Book of the Year Award.

The publication of Wild Swans in 1991 was a worldwide phenomenon. Not only did it become the best-selling non-fiction book in British publishing history, with sales of well over two million, yet it was received with unanimous critical acclaim.

Few books have ever had such an impact on their readers. Through the story of three generations of women - grandmother, mother and daughter – ‘Wild Swans’ tells nothing less than the whole tumultuous history of China’s tragic twentieth century, from sword-bearing warlords to Chairman Mao, from the Manchu Empire to Cultural Revolution. At times terrifying, at times astonishing, always deeply moving, Wild Swans is a book in a million, a true story with all the passion and grandeur of a great novel.

For this new edition, Jung Chang has written a new introduction, bringing her own story up to date, and describing the affect Wild Swans’ success has had on her life.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st Edition edition (Sep 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671685465
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671685461
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 15.2 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (326 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 406,044 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

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

‘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, The 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

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

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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 and is married to the writer Jon Halliday.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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First Sentence
At the age of fifteen my grandmother became the concubine of a warlord general, the police chief of a tenuous national government of China. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
113 of 115 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A stunning autobiography 19 July 2005
By Ally
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
5.0 out of 5 stars This has to be read to be believed 7 Dec 1999
By A Customer
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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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling and heart-wrenching 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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Story of Courage and Tyranny 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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China
I was wrapped up with the intrigues and plots experienced by the people of China. It was written in such a clear way that it was easy to understand.
Published 1 hour ago by Sheila Cowling
5.0 out of 5 stars makes you realise how lucky you are
I got confused sometimes with the similar names and strange places, but overall I found this a very riveting read
Published 1 day ago by Jules
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A powerfully written book about the changes in china.
Published 2 days ago by Mrs Judith Gisborne
5.0 out of 5 stars My Hero Read
The best book I have read, so moving the opening chapter about life as a concubine was gripping.
The way life crumbled away under the cruel regime so moving. Read more
Published 5 days ago by Eileen Loader
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
Very moving and insightful. Great read
Published 6 days ago by Brenda Yuill
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredibly vivid, introspective and admirable story
I read this book while I was travelling through China for the first time - it was great to read such a personal account of life in modernising China, alongside the resolutely... Read more
Published 7 days ago by madison fowler
5.0 out of 5 stars I love it
It's one of my favourite books. A very absorbing read
Published 7 days ago by Wanda Plummer
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully written factual story of life in China over the ...
A beautifully written factual story of life in China over the past century. So interesting - Ive learned a lot!
Published 7 days ago by ms sinead brady
5.0 out of 5 stars A thought provoking and interesting read
Reading this book about the three generations of Chinese women took over my life for a week or more so that I was even dreaming about them. Read more
Published 8 days ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Fascinating insight
Published 11 days ago by JD73
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