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4.3 out of 5 stars189
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on 6 September 1999
I just finished this book for my book club and every one of us liked it. I think it's horrible for any child to be treated in the manner that Adeline and her siblings were treated. It's sad to know that it's actually not all that unusual, no matter what your economic background might be. I do think she was more fortunate than most in that she was able to go to England and study. What I really question is why she kept thinking that her father, Niang, and siblings were all going to change. I guess I see it as "Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me". She'd gotten away, moved to America, found Bob and had kids she adored. Why did she let these people back into her life? It seems to me that Susan was the only one to escape the emotional bondage that Niang held. The father is as much to blame as Niang. I just can't understand how anyone could treat children that way. I found much of the history she wrote about very interesting and I would recommend the book to others.
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on 22 July 1999
This is a story about a girl growing up in an unloving home in China during the revolution. She is constantly being reminded of her mother's death, caused by the birth of the little girl. The stepmother that replaces her will torment her physically and mentally for the rest of her life, even after her death. It's a story about trauma and abuse. The inner strenght developed by the girl grows over the years and as a young woman she is detremined to make a life for herself. Still wanting to prove herself to her family she travells, studies hard, marries and have children. However, even in her new life she is constantly haunted by her dark past and the lack of parental love. Adeline's strength and good heart is extremely touching. Despite the sadness and grief she's had to live through, she's come out as a strong and determined person. Writing this book only proves this.
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on 25 November 2000
"Falling Leaves" is one of the best books I have ever read. I was compelled to buy it after having stumbled across "Chinese Cinderella", another of Adeline Yen Mah's excellent books. Both books are wonderful. Adeline's story is heartbreaking, and made worse by the fact that it never needed to happen. Perhaps if her father had allowed Adeline's mother to go into hospital, then she would have lived, and Niang would not have entered the picture. As it stands, Adeline and all of her siblings suffered the childhood from hell. Niang was certainly a powerful figure. For many years, she controlled not only the children, but also their father, grandfather and aunt. It is likely that her influence continued to hurt all concerned, even after her death. I would recommend both "Falling Leaves" and "Chinese Cinderella" to everyone.
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on 12 March 2000
This book touched me to the very core of my soul. It was just unforgettable. After starting I couldn't put it down until I finished it, I was just touched to deeply that I read it over and over again. I just had to keep reading, when I finished I just started again. It is one of the most best written books that I have ever read. It made me want to know more and more about her, I also felt with her too. There were so many times in which I wanted to cry with her and be with her at her times of suffering. This is just a brilliant book I recommend it to anyone if you ever have the chance to read it you too will be touched to the very core of your being.
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on 21 May 2001
This story really made me think. Some people say that she should have been thankful for having rich parents, but, trust me, when you're getting told that you're horrible, evil and forced to listen to derogratory comments about yourself, than that's abuse, and no-one should put up with it. I am told daily to just put up with it and that I should be thankful for what I've got, but, I think that I am entitled to speak up. Her sister Susan was a much more better character, though, and we should have a story of her life. It must have to be doubly hard on her, being her own mother yet she still had the strength to leave.
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on 7 January 2001
I found 'Falling Leaves' to be a very personal story. I thought Mah wrote from the heart and it was very brave of her to share her heart-breaking story. I couldn't put the book down and when I'd finished I went out and bought 'Chinese cinderella'. I thought 'Falling Leaves' was a much more personal story compared to 'Wild Swans'. I loved the way in which Mah showed her family that she could do well in her life despite their holding her back. I would read her story again and again and think anyone young or old could get something from it. I would love for Mah to write some more great books.
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on 18 March 2001
The True Story of an Unwanted Chinese Daughter during the last 60 years. In order to explain the first scene in this memoir, Adeline Yen Mah has filled the opening chapters with lusty images of an emerging nation amid burgeoning commercial & international life at the end of an empire & the start of a revolution.
It is after Adeline's birth, during the Japanese encroachment around Tianjin in 1937, that her mother succumbs to puerperal fever leaving five children motherless & the household rudderless. The family must watch as Father seeks & marries a beautiful young Eurasian woman.
From here on Adeline Yen Mah's memoirs take on a dour & malevolent aspect. In her scrupulous honesty, Adeline muses that Niang must have been happy in the beginning, however, she forced siblings to choose sides, spy on each other & curry her favor. This most beautiful of stepmothers singles out the infant girl with particular venom; until Adeline is banished to boarding schools.
I survived that particular exile myself, so I found this author's memories devastating as well as healing. Adeline Yen Mah manages to recount, without a scrap of self-pity or rancor, the years of betrayal & persecution until her scholarship, literally rescues her from her stepmother's clutches. In England & at medical school, Adeline thrives. Knowing the England of the 1950s I was fascinated & familiar with her experiences. I followed her adventures with growing gladness even as my heart dropped with every dreaded return to the withered core of her family.
Then she makes her way to America & falls for a handsome man; beauty is as beauty does & why, I wondered, would someone with Adeline's relationship training, know how to choose a good man? In California, however, she gets the opportunity to mature, safely raise her children & practice her medical profession. In fact, she becomes, to my naughty delight, the one resounding success in her family.
I was enchanted, enthralled & sometimes dreaded the next chapter. Now I have another definition of courage - that's all you can ask of a good book. Do check out my site for my full review of this & many other autobiographies.
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on 28 April 2015
This is a cinderella story with a very wicked stepmother and a very unprepossessing set of siblings. However, while the protagonist was certainly poorly treated by her father and stepmother relative to her siblings, she had a far better life than millions of other Chinese girls growing up, none of who m were ever sent abroad at great cost to get a decent foreign education, for example.
The story is full of unsympathetic characters - the downright nasty brother, the sister who only wanted her in later life when she had some money and spent most of the rest of the time intriguing against her, the elder brother who was ostensibly her ally but in practice rarely stood up for her and always looked after his own interests first, often to the detriment of Adeline, the weak father who allowed himself to be dominated by his second wife, and the apparently completely obnoxious stepmother, who nobody at all ever seems to have thought to instruct to take a long walk off a short pier, apart from - ironically - her own daughter. The 5 step children - or at least the elder four - hung around in her orbit, forever hoping for a windfall one day.
As the book progresses I found myself increasingly alienated by this unprepossessing bunch, to the point that I didn't really care who was being obnoxious to who, or why. Even the author, whilst whining on about her own mistreatment, makes life worse for herself with a series of stupid decisions, amongst them starting a relationship with a clearly maladjusted lecturer twice her age while at college, giving up a good job offer for a much worse one because she thought it would please her father and - most stupidly - marrying someone having spent less than ten hours in his company and then being surprised when he turned out to be violent and abusive. Even then, it only occurs to her to divorce him when her parents tell her to. And why did she completely desert Aunt Baba, who was one of the few people to show her kindness throughout her growing up? I stopped caring about the lot of them some time before the (somewhat inconclusive) end..
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on 4 March 2012
The book Falling Leaves is Adeline Yen Mah's autobiography-it is told in a "story" way. Falling Leaves is meant for older readers (13+), it has the same content as Chinese Cinderella-but Chinese Cinderella is suitable for all ages. Falling Leaves has complex words and descriptions, so it would be too complicated for younger readers.

The book starts off with herseld; her three older brothers and older sister reading their father's will with Niang (their stepmother)...Then the rest of the book is a flashback, starting from when Jun-Ling (Adeline Yen Mah's Chinese name)in her childhood, to her teens, University years and then marriage! Adeline, truly was treated like a Cinderella, her mother (also her brothers' and sister's mother) died three days after Adeline was born. Adeline is treated like a second-class citizen by her father, Niang, sister and brothers. However, Aunt Baba promised Adeline's mother that she would treat Adeline like her own daughter. Aunt Baba; Ye Ye (Grandfather); Nai Nai (Grandmother; relatives from her mother's family and brother James (third brother) were the only family members that treated her kindly...

*If you are looking for a book that combines non-fiction, Chinese history,romance and disaster-read this book!*
The only thing that I am upset about is:I bought Chinese Cinderella AND Falling Leaves, after reading both of them I found out that the only difference between the books, was that one was more complex than the other.
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on 8 February 1999
It's one of the best written books I've read in recent years. Mah's writing stlye is so easy to read - no unnecesary description, no long sentences, but very vivid images of the characters and emotions involved. You keep turning the pages and before you realize you got to the end of the book. It's a very compelling book, so full of emotions that I could hardly put it down. Contrary to the belief of some readers, this book is NOT about a poor little rich girl whinging about the past and seeking revenge. It's far from it. The book is about the struggle which the author went through growing up. Not only was her existence of no importance to her family, as evidenced by her being abandoned in her boarding school when war broke out, her own father was so mesmerized by her stepmother that she was disowned as a result, This was simply because her stepmother did not like her. Although she was born into a rich family, she never got what she really wanted, which was love, warmth and care from her family. All she wanted was simply "Well done. I'm so proud of you and I love you" from her parents. Maybe for those of you who are unfamiliar with the Chinese culture, in particular the upper echelon of society in that era, it may seem soap opera-ish. However, the sad thing is that it's a true story. It's a good illustration of the fact that money is not every thing and above all, it does not necessarily bring love and happiness. It's very courageous of the author to write this book. Bravo to Adeline!! Writing this book could not have been a joy but an emotional roller-coaster ride. Not many people could've done it. You must read this book - it's the truest of all true stories that I've come across!!!
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