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on 21 February 2015
I've read several books on Mao and the various historical episodes such as the Long March, Great Leap and Cultural Revolution. I found this book harrowing to read, but couldn't put it down. A large section of carefully-stated sources at the back indicates the quality of accuracy. Of course some events will be accurate, some less so, you can never get historical accuracy perfect because it depends on the quality of the available information. But with such a large source base, this is likely the most accurate account of those times. It rather places Mao as the worst person who has ever lived. If it is true that he was responsible for 70 million deaths of Chinese people, then in comparison to the 50 million worldwide that are generally reckoned to have died in World War II, this largely hidden horror of China's past is truly shocking. I've been to numerous places in China (including Luding, the famous bridge from the Long March) and seen the still-prevalent poverty in many areas, and some scars left by these historical events. How it must have been for ordinary folks during Mao's rein is almost unimaginable compared to most Western society of that time.
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on 9 April 2015
A phenomenal book and a tour-de-force. The trouble they took to research this book was extraordinary. Mao is seen for what he was, a pitiless, scheming, clever, murderous psychopathic thug in whom there appears to have been no redeeming feature. The only one I know of, not mentioned in the book, is that he stopped foot binding. He starved his people to buy weapons, technology, power and influence. The people around him were by and large bad too and incredibly ruthless, including Chou En Lai. What also is revealed in the book is how gullible many Westerners were, notably Kissinger, Edgar Snow, and the idiot of idiots, Jean Paul Sartre.
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on 5 September 2015
Very happy with quality of the product. Thank you.
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on 26 June 2017
Great book, would definetely recommend it to anyone interested in Mao's life
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on 8 July 2017
' Mao: The Unknown Story' is an extraordinary biography of an extraordinary, and terrible, man. It is probably fair to describe it as an'unknown story', partly because the authors have undertaken detailed, comprehensive research and are able to present facts not known previously, and partly for the more general reason that many people in the West are unfamiliar with the story of Mao's rise to power and his absolutist tyranny. Although it is pointless and irrelevant to argue who was the worst tyrant of the twentieth century, it should not be forgotten that Mao was responsible for the deaths of more people than Hitler and Stalin combined.
The authors are particularly strong in the area of Mao's rise to power, both within the Chinese Communist Party, and later over the whole of China. Along the way, they manage to destroy several myths, including the 'triumph' of The Long March and the untainted image of Chou En Lai. Despite the printing of hundreds of millions of copies of the 'Little Red Book' setting out his thoughts, Mao was no great political thinker. Rather, he was a brilliantly ruthless political operator who established a religious cult with himself as the chief deity.
I strongly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in twentieth century history. Although it is a fairly substantial tome, it is never dull or boring. It is however shocking and upsetting to see how one man's lust for power could destroy the lives of so many innocent people.
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on 31 March 2017
Mao The Unknown Story is an thorough and informative book. It is not pleasant reading but we in the West should know what the ordinary Chinese people suffered for other despicable men to enjoy 'Communism' John Halliday and his Chinese wife have done a brave thing.
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on 19 November 2013
I have lived in China for almost 20 years, and what I have learned about Mao in that time has been totally shattered by this book. There is no doubt that the 10 years of research that Chang & Halliday put into this book has produced a first class piece of work. It brings to light so very much that is unknown or, often the case in China, untold. The Long March, The Great Leap Forward, The Cultural Revolution and much more were all made far more believable than what we may otherwise have thought of those times. The details and interviews in the book add great weight to the destruction of the myth that has become Mao.

There were times as I worked my way through this heavy book that I felt the bias towards Mao became too much of a driving force for the authors. However, the more I read, the more I believed. The book also brought me to question how such a nation could respond in the way that it did to Mao's many cruel tactics and how people could become implicit in it.

Anyone who has an interest in China and it's history would greatly benefit from reading Mao - The Unknown Story. They will learn not just about Mao, but of many other famous and infamous people of that time, along with a deeper understanding of the psyche of the Chinese people before and after the Communist Party came to rule.

Not a comfortable read, by any measure, but an extremely valuable one.
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on 1 August 2014
Possibly the most comprehensive, mind bogglingly detailed, foot noted, referenced and resourced book I have ever read. Chang and Halliday have done humanity and the future of China a tremendous service by painstakingly deconstructing the myth of Mao and revealing possibly the most monstrous human to have ever walked this planet. Her sources are awe inspiring - the translator present during discussions between Mao and Stalin, KGB and intelligence archives that the Russians are only too happy to divulge now, surviving members of the long march interviewed by her over twenty years ago as well as contemporaries and descendents of Mao's inner circle, defectors, party archivists, Mao's own notes, poems, essays,, intercepted communiques (via Russian, British and American sources) from Mao's ranks and dissenters and so on.

The last two hundred pages of this 900+ page book contains list after list of sources, references, bibliographies of chinese and non-chinese sources, interviewee lists, author notes, archives - and this is outside of the voluminous foot-notes.

The content of the book will speak for itself to those who care to read it. The main purpose of my review is to offer some counterbalance to reviewers who try to paint this work as some self-interested, whimsical, propagandist polemic. This book is a great wall of verifiable fact built brick upon brick of reliably sourced information.

To that end I would also point out that the reference notes also contain lists of historians with special access or special interest, that she consulted with (about sixty of them are chinese scholars) And as well as all of the eye witnesses she names, who would be anonymous on the world stage she also lists historical figures from 37 different countries who met Mao and provided information to her - they are named as prime ministers, leaders of religious orders and so on - all of them happy to put their name to her book.

This book has relatively few reviews (less than 90 at present). The good reviews have few helpful votes. The bad reviews have seven or eight hundred helpful votes. How odd. I've never seen anything like it anywhere else on Amazon. It seems that Mao, the most monstrous of them all is still creating propaganda from beyond the grave. How is that possible you might ask?
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on 17 August 2013
If you are interested in modern Chinese history, read this book. The picture of Mao of a heartless, paranoid Stalinist is unrelenting and horrific. Although the writing style can be annoying, with it's constant invective and insinuation, the facts speak for themselves. It is still a very well told and fascinating story - and one you will never forget.
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I knew terrible things had happened under Mao's rule, but until reading this book had presumed they were the consequences of ideological mismanagement rather than calculated terrorism on a near semi-global scale. The picture painted by these authors however, is of a tyrant totally corrupt and supremely cynical from the very start of his career. They describe Mao as a man with no shred of care or affection for anyone outside himself; a psychopath's psychopath; consuming everyone and everything that came into his orbit. While reading I found myself asking if this dreadful man could have been so truly this evil and manipulative right from the very beginning of his ascendency? Had he not, like so many others, started out as a revolutionary idealist who was gradually absolutely corrupted by absolute power? If Jung Chang's version of events is to believed then the answer is an unambivalent no.

This presents a quandary for a general reader like myself, because the only way I can assess this version is by reading other authors, and making painstaking comparisons, insofar as I feel impelled to pursue the topic. It occurs to me that it is less than 40 years since Mao's demise, but he still casts a very long shadow. Many people holding power today were probably junior accomplices to his later crimes, and many of its institutions remain characterised by a thuggery and unaccountability dating back to those dreadful times. It is clear that China has changed a great deal since then, and wants desperately to change still more. However, it seems to me that while the dreadful scars of Mao's rule are still in living memory, with people still afraid to face the truth of the horrors they endured, then China will remain a lonely country, without a true heart or purpose.

The fact that the one star reviews all seems to have garnered many hundreds of negative votes I take to be just one more indication of the way modern China has yet to grow up as a polity, demonstrating the chidlish lengths its servants will go to in attempting to manipulate the opinions of the world's free-thinking public. It seems very unreasonable to me to declare the authors' sources inadequate or biased; they have clearly been travelling the world for many, many years assembling the materials with which to weave this intricate tale, with a profound commitment to telling the story of this terrible regime, the best they could tell it, given how fanatically evidence was destroyed or fabricated, and witnesses eliminated in unspeakable numbers, without so much as a blink. If some kind of freedom arises in China soon enough for other versions of the history of Mao's period to emerge, then perhaps a more nuanced picture of the man might eventualy be constructed. Until then though, the monumental labours of these authors demand that they at least get a fair hearing.
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