Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China Paperback – 14 Jul 2016
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‘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, 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
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. ‘Wild Swans’ won the 1992 NCR Book Award and the 1993 British Book of the Year. She lives in London.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Jung Chang's writing is deceptively simple and you truly relate and identify both with the narrator and her family. This means that it's like a gripping novel, as well as biography.
Plus, this book gives you an insider view of the irrationality of Chinese Communism and shows George Orwell's nightmare vision of '1984' to be more accurate than ever. Yet, the book never lapses into tedious explanations or arguments, teaching us history without any effort.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is one of my all time favourite books. I bought this for a friend as I didn't want to loan out my own older copy. She loves it too. Read morePublished 19 days ago by VanPat
I've read this book already many years ago but started re-reading the English verson. The story in itself about 3 generatations living under the Communist regime is gripping. Read morePublished 24 days ago by laros76
I tried to read this a long time ago, and recently chose it for our book group. Nobody enjoyed it, and I couldn't get past the first 25%. Read morePublished 26 days ago by moonbears
I enjoyed this book very much although at times horrified at what happened to the Chinese people. Makes it so much more interesting when written by somebody who has personal... Read morePublished 1 month ago by DE
A interesting account, the accuracy of which I presume to be based on memory rather than written details.Published 1 month ago by Garth Heyhurst
A very beautifully written historical book. What a celebration of the strength of the human spirit. An inspiration to everybody, of how to never give up in the face of adversity.Published 1 month ago by Dr. Rao
I read this book around 20 years ago, so thought I'd treat myself to the audio version. Its just as heart-rending as the first time I read it. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Jenster
I was absolutely blown away with this book. I have very little knowledge of China during the communist years and after seeing the author interviewed on tv decided to by the book. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Mr. Robert Wilson