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Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China - Jung Chang

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Genre: Biography / Author: Jung Chang / Edition: New Ed / Paperback / 720 Pages / Book is published 2004-04-05 by HarperPerennial

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      02.05.2011 14:59
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      A compelling account of the history of China between 1870 and 1991.

      Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang is a fascinating and compelling read. The book is a riveting autobiography, written by Chang after fleeing China for safer pastures. She tells three separate but related true stories in the book, the story of her grandmother's life, her mother's life, and her own life in China. These three accounts combine to tell the history of China's ruling ideologies between 1870 and 1991.
      Wild Swans has been widely celebrated for its historical significance and importance. It follows the rise of the so-called 'Communist Party' in China, with Chairman Mao as the central figure. Chang tells us about her grandmother's isolated life as a concubine with bound feet, her reliance on that situation as an otherwise-poor Chinese woman, and her eventual escape from that life.

      Next we learn about Chang's mother. We can appreciate why she embraced the life Mao promised Chinese citizens, one without hierarchy and with equality and opportunities for all, as we understand that he mother had had none of these things. Chang's mother joins the Red Guard, a radical youth movement, in order to protect Mao's so-called Cultural Revolution. She fights, with her husband, for the vision of a better China, only to find that the previous regime had been replaced with a more brutal one: yet Mao is so clever with his indoctrination of people that many of them do not even realise this. They believe that things are actually better than they used to be, mainly because of Mao's insistence on book-burning, altering history, and the brutal treatment of anyone who dares to preserve a true version of history.

      Although the book is rife with brutal occurrences, it is all the more fascinating to read when we consider that people actually willingly inflicted such things on each other, out of worship for Mao. Anyone who knows about actual Communist theory will understand that it should have no central leader, especially not Mao Zedong who required so much worship and unquestioning obeisance. People were fooled by Mao's speeches and blinded to the truth, largely because Mao was so adept at empowering brutal people who could not think for themselves but who would follow his orders without question. They were real-life 'thought police': on his behalf, they ordered submission from people of intelligence such as teachers and writers, on the premise that they were somehow anti-Communist for trying to think for themselves.

      Chang's mother realises that there is a gap between the values the Communist Party is meant to support and the way people are actually treated when she is heavily pregnant and working as a Party member, but requires rest. Her husband is very loyal to the Party and he sees her need for rest as a lazy excuse, and Jung realises that he is blinded by lies. However it is near-impossible to escape from the Party now that she is a member, and she has no influence on other members who she sees treating people brutally. Her husband realises his own blindness only after his wife loses their baby.

      Although Chang is somewhat aware in her youth that Mao's regime does not protect her fellow Chinese people and in fact is often the cause of their deaths, she is not in a position to resist it either. Death is not even a guaranteed escape, as Mao's regime uses torture and humiliation as more effective punishments. There is no way Chang can convince the masses that Mao is a dictator who does not have their best interests at heart: even when his idea of The Great Leap Forward cause many people to starve and die, people still believe that it has been a success. The 'leap' was meant to focus on people becoming manufacturers of metal in their own homes and therefore make China rich, but when it failed and caused millions of people to starve Mao insisted that it had been victorious, hiding the statistics, lying in the newspapers and changing historical books to tells lies based on a victory that had never occurred. The rest of the world was also fooled.

      Chang's parents became disillusioned with The Cultural Revolution and therefore fell from power in their roles with the Party. Chang was therefore sent to the countryside to be educated into submission by living life as a peasant. Soon after the end of the Cultural Revolution however, Mao died and do did his forceful ideology. The country began mourning, and they also began to realise the atrocities they had been inflicting upon each other for so many years, in worship of Mao.

      Wild Swans is a large book, but I see that as a good thing, as Chang does not rush through important occurrences in the story, and the reader is given a very thorough account of life in China at different times. It is written in first person and I found it very easy to read.

      I think this is a crucially important text in understanding the true history of China, the psyche of its rulers and varying ideologies, and why Chinese people succumbed to dictatorship and ill-treatment of their fellow beings. It makes excellent personal reading, but I also think it should be on the national curriculum alongside Anne Frank's diary, as it is so rich with historical significance (though it would probably suit older readers only).

      Wild Swans also features photographs of Jung, her family and other members of the Party.

      The book is still currently banned in China.

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        15.08.2009 22:32
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        A great read for the more sophisicated reader i would say but its good for anyone, try it.

        Wild Swans - Jung Chang

        A totally engrossing book, a absolute page turner that will keep you hooked to the bitter sweet end. A thrilling story that refuses to be put down, this wasn't a book you got stuck in, this was a book you lived in.

        The book follows Chang family through Chinese history, through civil war, peace time and adventure, It displays family emotions and actions throughout a century of life in communist rule.

        This is a factual book but it tells a story of unimaginable horrors and like all great stories of survival, no matter what tragedies and disaster that are encountered along the way this is ultimately an uplifting book about human goodness in extraordinary circumstances.

        It is written very factually and is somewhat detached considering that it tells of such horrific things but somehow it manages to be incredibly moving. Only for serious readers as the length could defeat those who don't really want to be challenged and provoked.

        A great book, definate read.

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          09.01.2009 13:19
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          Brilliant

          Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China

          I first had my copy of this when i was sixteen years old bought for me by my mother who'd read it and loved it. I picked it up a few times but didn't actually sit down and read it properly. However, last year on a lazy summer day i came across it once more. I immeadiatly loved it and couldnt put it down- i needed to know what happened next!

          Genre:
          Autobiographical Family History

          Author:
          Jung Chang who writes about herself, her mother and grandmother through the ages of China.

          Year it was published:
          1991

          Cover:
          A jade green cover with the pictures of all three women featured in the book.

          Plot summary:
          This book is a fascinating look at the importance of Chinese History.
          The story begins with with Jungs grandmother who was sold as a concubine by her father to a high ranking warlord general. She lived a lonely but lavish life locked in a house by her servants. During one of his visits she concieves Jung's mother, and was then told upon his death the baby would be taken away and raised by the generals first wife, because of this she decided to flee and put out word that her child had died. She remarries and lives a poor but happy life.
          At fifteen, Jung's mother started working for the Communist Party of China and Mao Zedong's army. She lived in treachourous times working as a teacher alongside Kuomintang officials. She meets and falls in love with Jungs father a high ranking officail in the Communist party. She soon gives birth to four children, one being Jung.
          When Jung, herself was a teenager, the Cultural Revolution had started. She willingly joined the Red Guards although under Mao's control the communist regime became more corrupt. Having lost faith in Mao she was sent to work as a peasant until the death of Mao. She decided to study and made it to university and is now a Lecturer.

          Trivia:
          The book won two awards: the 1992 NCR Book Award and the 1994 British Book of the Year. The book has been translated into 30 languages and sold over 10 million copies.

          Quote:
          "People had been acting for so long they confused it with their true feelings. I wondered how many of the tears were genuine".

          Reccommendation:
          This book WILL make you evalute your life. This is a family who have had a constant struggle, misfortune, triumph and adventure. Definatly give this one a read. It looks a bit daunting as this book is so think but it does contain the life stories of three inspirational women. I'd definatly reccommmend this book to those interested in the history of China, although it can get quite confusing to keep up at times (ie old chinese place names and birth names), but don't let this deter you. this is a fabulous book.

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            29.12.2008 17:14
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            Scary, thought-provoking, emotional.....everybody should read this book!

            I am a member of an online reading group, Babbling books, and to celebrate it's anniversary last year some of us decided to paticipate in a read-a-long. Wild Swans was the book chosen in a democratic vote from a list of nominated novels and it was decided that we would read a chapter a week then discuss any thoughts or opinions we might have as we finished each chapter rather than disscuss the book as a whole at it's end. This, I thought, was a brilliant idea and if people wanted to read at their own pace then they could- all plot discussions would be spoilered so as to not ruin anybody's enjoyment.

            Well, theres only three weeks and three chapters to go but I thought I could not contain myself any longer and that I had to share with my fellow Dooyooers exactly what I thought about what has not at times been an easy book to read....

            Those of you who have read any of my other book reviews will know that I have been affected by novels such as A thousand splendid suns, The boy in the striped pajamas, The Kite runner and The Book thief- all of which reference difficult periods of history or turbulent cultures of which previously I might not have had a lot of experience or knowledge. Well now I can add Wild Swans to that list because this book is an amazing, enlightening and often very emotional read.

            Subtitled Three daughters of China, this true-life account recalls the lives of the author, her mother and grandmother as they struggle to survive amongst the contradictions and hardships brought about by the influence of Chairman Mao and the Communist Party upon the chinese people. Much of what I read in these pages was new to me and came across on many occassions to be quite shocking. The book is narrated in an easy and familiar style reminiscent of a novel, and yet everything you read here is true-life and actually happened and this makes the book a much more compelling read than any of the other books I have previously mentioned as affecting me. Great pains are made to put into perspective documented historical events in Chinese history and give them a more human angle and though there are times when I laughed out loud, there were much more where I sat back horrorified at the oft-ridiculous demands by Mao upon his people and nearly reduced to tears. This is a book that demands to be read and is as worthy a book of an award as any I have ever picked up.

            I cannot believe that until now, I knew so little of China's history and strongly and firmly believe more people should pick this book up and read it. I cannot praise it highly enough and Jung is a natural storyteller as she recalls the bitter lives endured by her mother and grandmother before going on to talk about her own life and experiences. It helps that the book is told chronologically and thus you are given real insight into how China changed and how it's people were essentially brainwashed, under thought-reform tatics, not to question the divine judgement of Chairman Mao.

            This is a book that should be esssential reading as it really makes you think and question your place in the larger world. How much more is going on around us even now that we, as westerners, are so seldom aware of? A disturbing fact I discovered recently was that 70 million people are thought to have died under Mao DURING PEACE TIME!!! This was instigated by the famines induced as part of his regime!!! At school, we were always told about the Holocaust which I am not denying was a horrorific and very important event but how many more millions have died as a result of other historical happenings and how many more are killed every day in conflicts around the globe of which we are not made aware of? Only a book such as this can ever really hope to put our own, pitiful lives into some kind of perspective and if reading this book doesn't help change the way you think, the way you live your life then you must already be dead inside.

            This is without question the best book I read in 2008 and I am currently reading Mao; the untold story, written by the same author in collaboration with her husband, because Wild Swans has affected me so. In my opinion, the more we can learn about the lives of other cultures and the tragedy they have endured, the more likely we are to find a solution the better that humankind can learn to live together in some form of peace and harmony.

            This book is a rollercoaster of emotions but reading it truly is an eye-opening experience!!!!1

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              30.03.2004 01:02
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              Within the last few days, I have realised that when it comes to certain things I am completely ignorant about what is going on in the world around me. This realisation has come about after finishing ?Wild Swans? and becoming aware of that fact that an entire country deceived the world for a number of years about what was actually happening within it - suppression, unnecessary punishment, dictatorship and complete control of thinking. It has astounded me that this could possibly have happened within a country with a population of around 1,260,000,000. Before the actual review, I?ll outline some of the (very!) basic ideas behind the Communist Party. This might not be correct, as this is only what I have gained from reading this book, but hopefully it?ll help to explain the behaviour of various people within the book. The initial stages of the Communist Party in China promised equality for everybody in every shape and form. To Western thinking, it might seem extreme for it to be considered right that everyone should wear exactly the same clothes, eat the same things and work towards one single goal of elevating the country?s ?position? but in China, when the Party arrived it was a welcome relief after the years of fighting with one army or another. The Chinese people were supposed to have complete allegiance to and even total love for their Chairman, Mao. They were expected to report whether they thought a person was enjoying more privileges than they were entitled to at someone else?s expense or if they had negative thoughts about Mao or the Party. This was just one way of preventing people losing out and to ensure that everyone had exactly the same as the next person. Unfortunately, human nature and a strong dose of dictatorship meant this just didn?t work and eventually the whole country existed under the suspicion of being denounced as a ?class enemy? while most of the higher officials enjoyed all sorts of privileges that the lower classes could onl
              y dream of. ?Wild Swans? is the story of three women of China who survive under this regime. Jung Chang?s grandmother had her feet bound at the age of two; became the lonely concubine of a warlord and bearing his child, Jung?s mother, before marrying a respected doctor. Their area of Jinzhou is occupied by first the Kuomintang army and is then invaded by Japan before the Communists take over. The Communist Party is appealing to Jung?s mother as it comes as a breath of fresh air compared to how they lived before. She joins the Party willingly and it is here that she meets Jung?s father. He is also an extremely keen member of the Party and completely holds its strongest beliefs in equality for all. Jung?s mother finds out exactly how firm her husband?s belief is in this when he refuses her certain allowances on occasions when she really needs it. Jung herself is born before the Party reaches its extremes. She remembers her very early years as quite fun and she was a well-liked child. Initially, she joins the party as a Red Guard as the Party?s doctrine is ingrained into her and she thinks that she can make a difference. As she gets older however, she begins to realise more and more what the Party is truly like and begins to resent the oppressive regime in which she lives. She has to watch and wait as her parents are slowly persecuted for holding onto their beliefs in the true meaning of the Party - the Party?s values changed from being focused on the people of China to demanding a complete willingness to do anything that Mao asks of them. All the while, she herself is inwardly rebelling but feels unable to do anything about her situation for fear of anybody denouncing her to the Party officials and ruining any chance she might have in the future of any career or possible happiness. The book runs chronologically throughout their lives and how they deal with the different kinds of oppression they experience. This ranges from the tr
              aditional Chinese view of what a Chinese woman should and shouldn?t do i.e., she should display complete concurrence with her husband at all times and should never be seen in public with a man alone without some kind of ?agreement? to the extreme Party oppression that the existence of any newspaper displaying the face of Mao could be asked to be proven at any time to show the love for the Chairman. Some aspects of their lives are focused on more than others - their family life is given little area compared to the amount that work receives. However, this only highlights the fact that under the regime the emphasis was on work - families were not important, love and respect for Mao and your comrades were. The book is so effective as the voice of Jung is strong throughout it - her language is incredibly precise and correct in the words it uses to describe the happenings that you don?t doubt for one second that every word she has written is completely and utterly true and horrifying. The pace is actually slowed down as the book progresses. The first part of the book deals with the early years of her grandmother?s life, taking in nearly fifty years in five chapters. This year-to-chapters ratio gets progressively smaller; twenty years of her mother?s life takes thirteen chapters and the 1960s alone takes ten. This is an incredibly effective way to organize the story, as it is the later years that are the most shocking and revealing about their lives. The early part does well in describing the grandmother?s spirit and determination and this character seems to filter down through the females and help them to make the best of a bad situation. The saddest thing that I found, apart from the persecution of the Chinese people as a whole, was to imagine how the character of Jung?s father was slowly but surely eroded down over the years until he is nothing but a shell of the man he used to be. This is a man so firm in his beliefs that he refused to allow h
              is wife to be driven after a particularly dangerous birth as he thinks it would be unfair to people who are unable to afford such luxuries. He is finally reduced to mental illness after he is persecuted for sticking to these original values and refusing to pretend to believe in something he doesn?t, when eventually all the Party stands for is complete control under Mao. It is a hard thing to imagine how much this must affect a person, but Jung describes it perfectly without an abundance of emotion or sugar-coating. Although I wasn?t old enough at the time to know about it, apparently there was media frenzy when the book was released in 1993. After reading it, I can well imagine there was. The situation it describes and the hardships people had to endure for fear of making it worse is almost unbelievable, but the fact that is real and completely true is what makes it so compelling to read. It is no surprise to know that Jung does eventually leave China - this is evident from the mere fact that the book has been written never mind published. To have even attempted to write a book like this under the regime would have been punishable by imprisonment, if not death. It shows how far she has come since her younger days in the country that she is even able to think about writing the book. I would recommend this to anybody, even if you don?t know anything about the Communist Party and the happenings in China. It all becomes clear by the end but personally I think that I?ve benefited from my previous lack of knowledge. As I honestly had no idea what had happened, the shock that I felt when I realised exactly what these people went through was incredibly sharp. I just cannot imagine what it must have been like to exist in a constant state of fear of being dragged off by officials and being beaten to a confession of crimes such as thinking negative thoughts about Mao. I?m just glad that I had a chance to read this book - I have a much stron
              ger appreciation for my way of living for doing so. ISBN: 0-00-637492-1 Available from Amazon for £7.99 or WHSmith online for £6.99 676 Pages - The book is indexed and has a choronology and family tree to help to understand the interaction between characters and timing of events. It also has quite a few photographs of Jung's family. The title of the review comes from Ch. 27, P.632 of the book.

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                04.10.2002 04:55
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                'Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China' is probably the most memorable and emotionally affecting book I have read. It is the autobiography of Jung Chang. It tells the story of three generations of Chinese women, and is thus also the biography of Chang's mother and grandmother. It spans the years 1909 to 1992, and chronicles the social history of the country through the Manchu empire, republicanism, the rule of Chiang Kai-shek, the Japanese invasion, communism and the infamous 'cultural revolution'. The lives of the women are eventful, turbulent and often tragic, shaped by the constantly shifting political and social cultures in which they live. Chang's great-grandmother was born in 1894. Being 'only' a girl in a culture which valued boys far more, she was not even given a name, but was known as 'Number Two Girl'. By the time she had her own daughter, Chang's grandmother, in 1909, the position of women was not much changed. At two years old, grandmother's feet were brutally and painfully bound by her own mother: 'Her mother wound a piece of white cloth about twenty feet long around her feet, bending all the toes except the big toe inward and under the sole. Then she placed a large stone on top to crush the arch. My grandmother passed out repeatedly from the pain.' At that time, bound feet were considered beautiful and desirably vulnerable, and women were raised to be obedient, silent and demure. Grandmother was very beautiful, and became the concubine of a Chinese warlord. Though he treated her well materially, he was not affectionate and she was badly treated by his other concubines, all of whom lived in a constant state of conflict and jealousy. After the death of the warlord, grandmother fled his house and eventually married again, this time to a gentle doctor who treated her well. Together they brought up Chang's mother to be strong, intelligent and
                independent. Into this harmonious life erupted the Japanese invasion, and life became difficult, terrifying and uncertain under the rule of their brutal regime. This led Chang's mother to joining the Communist Party, which she believed would lead to a better life for her family and the nation. Knowing the story of her own mother's life, she was determined that her daughter would live in a different, more compassionate and equal world. Communist China turned out to be a nightmare world of murder, torture, suspicion and total instability. People were arrested and tortured on suspicion of anti-communist thought, people disappeared, people starved to death, and all lived to strict regimented rules overseen by sadistic agents of the state. Beauty was banned, entertainment considered treacherous frivolity, and family life was suppressed in favour of allegiance to the nation and the communist manifesto. Jung Chang herself was born in 1952. She lived through the worst excesses of the communist regime and witnessed famine, murder and the egomaniacal, cruel 'Cult of Mao'. Chang saw her parents arrested, family members tortured and disappeared, and lived day-to-day not knowing if and when she would see her loved ones again. She was trained by the state to be a 'good communist' and did what she was told, at fourteen years old becoming one of Mao's Red Guards. Throughout her time in China she worked as a peasant, a 'barefoot doctor', a steelworker, and an electrician. Eventually she managed to leave China for the west, but not before she had lived through and suffered unimaginable hell. 'Wild Swans' is not light reading. You will hear of families eating their own babies, dead people in the streets, executions, public torture and horrendous emotional fear, paranoia and pain. You will also read stories so inspiring that you cry. I've read this book several times and
                each time have to put it down and cry when I read of Grandmother, an old woman, WALKING across China on her BOUND FEET to search for her family. And there are many, many moments, particularly between Chang and her mother, that are equally uplifting and brave. Chang is a natural writer who makes the book as much of a page-turner as any fast-paced novel. And because her story is so eventful, it often reads like action-packed fiction. Her skill at portraying character, and at describing the political and cultural climate, however, never leaves you in any doubt that what you are reading is totally, horribly real. You finish the book shell-shocked, but with the sense that you have read something beautiful, intelligent, and ultimately heartwarming. Chang's heart is as big as her formidable intellect, and you are filled with nothing but respect for her and her family. It's a cliché to say that the book is a triumph of the human spirit, but that is just what it is. As well as a warning of what happens when politics and war take over, it is a defiantly emotional celebration of humanity, goodness and love. This book caused a media frenzy when it came out in 1992, and Chang was rightly showered with awards. I read it for about the fifth time a couple of months ago, and was affected just as deeply as the first time. This book is a timeless piece of social history and the human capacity to withstand, defy and conquer evil. I could not recommend it more highly.

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                  30.10.2001 18:01
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                  Wild Swans maps the changing history of China, from the old era of empires and dynasties through the years of Mao's communism. Jung Chang's family history renders that huge tract of history personal and comprehensible - it is easy enough to become alienated by dates and figuers, but this work brings the place and the period to life. There may be some plot spoilers in here, I'll try to keep it minimal. Chang's grandmother - whose name means Jade, was born out of an arrnaged marriage, and had her feet bound. (A hideous practise, I'll spare you the details.) She became a concubine to a warleader, and after he died, she fled, taking her daughter with her. She was fortunate in later marrying a doctor, who loved her dearly. The Japanese invaded - their rule was brutal and life became very difficult. The communsits were initially fighting the Japanese, and many young people flocked to them with visions of building a new China - both of Chang's parents were drawn in durning their youth. When mao came to power, the culture changed, and those who had fought to instal him suddenly found they were being treated as the enemies. The book explores the propoganda, the fear and the insanity of Mao's rule. Chang's mother lost her first child as a result of being a communist she was expected to keep walking, even though she was too weak. Family life was destroyed by the regeim - work must come first, and the deification of Mao is a frightening process to watch. China destroyed much of its heritage durning this period. the waste of life, elarning and energy is very depressing to read about. Chang herself grew up indoctrinated with Maoist thought, but as she grew her own observations and the cruelty suffered by her parents began to make her doubt the sense in it. She was able to get herself educated, and, having learned the English language, made her way to the Western world. This is not an easy book to read - the
                  re is a great deal of violence, cruelty and emotional suffering in its many pages. There is deprivation, and the horrors of a mad and corrupt power. Chang takes us in detail through some of the insanities of Mao's reign - everyone had to produce steel, regardless of what else they were doing, cooking implements were melted down, famines ensued where peple were taken off the land. Young people were sent out to work in the fields with the traditional peasants - to learn skills alien to their middle class backgrounds. Suspicion was rife - anyone could be accused of not being for the revolution at any time, and Mao was always looking for new people to scapegoat. Rather than try to bring equality by elevating those who had elast, Comunist China seems to have been working towards brining everyone down to the status of the poorest peasants - denying education, destroying heritage and learning, breaking down traditional systems and limiting even the length of hair and the colour of clothes. It is a terribly impersonal vision - a shocking one for those of us who are used to seeing individuality as all important. This is an incredible book, and everyone should read it. It shows both the humanity and the inhumanity of China durning recent history, it does not condemn, nor does it condone, and a good balance is thus struck. Chang explores the context that allowed China to be carreid away by Communism, and demonstrates well the ways in which good ideas were corrupted by the desire for power. If you liked this book, try Anchee Min's "Red Azalea" which makes an interesting contrast.

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                    28.01.2001 02:54
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                    Wild Swans (Three daughters of China) is really a story of awakening, a journey through the lives of a Grandmother, daughter and grand daughter (the author). Jung Chang has written a book that will stay with the reader for a long time. Born in 1952, she was raised, mostly by her Grandmother, under the rule of Chairman Mao. Her parents were “high Officials” who were greatly respected by their co-workers and friends, and great believers in Mao’s communist dream. Jung Chang tells us in passionate detail how, after the “Cultural Revolution”, both her Parents were persecuted and at various points in their lives, imprisoned or sent to remote camps to work for redemption for their crimes against chairman Mao. At the time Jung had little knowledge about just what her parents were going through, both of them believed in communism, both of them revered Mao, and yet they were being punished. Mao had cleverly manipulated the population of China with mind games; he suppressed information to the masses and used their ignorance to turn them against each other for the greater cause. During this time the “Red Army” was formed, using propaganda, Mao incited all the students to revolt against their teachers, giving them ambiguous reasons for doing so, and allowing violent and humiliating acts to befall the teachers,who were denounced as “bourgeois intellectuals”. This is a must read for anyone interested in the social history of China, it is beautifully written, Jung Chang tells us, in a no nonsense way, about the beauty and the horrors of living in a dictatorship. The hardships endured by hundreds of millions of people, in the name of communism, may not sound like the sort of bedtime read we all like, but this book is so full of energy and hope that it will carry you along, because you will find yourself caring about the people involved, and that is what makes a good
                    story great. My one criticism about this book is the way it ends, Jung only gives us a few paragraphs about her life in the free west, and I would have been very interested in finding out about how she coped, it must have been a huge culture shock to leave China and land in Britain.

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                      28.11.2000 09:31
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                      This book is more than just a story... its an experience, it sounds really cheesy, but the book stays with you for a very long time after you finish reading it, and you just cant stop thinking about it. When you first start reading the book, you get a little put off, because there is lot of politics involvd, but if you persist, you soon get to the heart of the story, and begin to get familiar with the characters. The book taught me a great deal about China that i didnt have a clue about, and some of the stuff is pretty horrific. The biography basically follows the lives of three generations of Chinese womens, and illustrates how the rise of communism affects their lives. This spans more than a century, and describes a huge difference in the quality of lives throughout the different stages of the communist revolution. To illustrate how succesfullt this book is, i will use my sister as an example. My sister has never actually finished an adult story book (shes a very slow reader , and not the brightest of sparks... bless her!!!) and yet she actually read this book from start to finish within a matter of days (she was reading it all day and all night, even when she went to the toilet!!!), and she even managed to understand a little of the politics involved. This is quite an achievement for someone who wonders howcome Wimbeldon Tennis is in England every year. I would say, even if a biography isnt your cup of tea, and even if you think that there may be too much politics in this book, give it a go, because by the end of the book you feel as if you know the characters in person, and you feel like you've been there with them , and experienced everything they've been through.

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                      12.09.2000 23:00
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                      This is a truly great book. It tells the story of three generations of Chinese Women. It is a very moving account. It tells the story of china’s recent history as well as the lives of the women are very closely tied up with the policies and decrees that the rulers make. It can be heavy going at times due to the subject nature but should be read by everyone so that they know what has been happening in China over the past century as it still remains quite a closed country.

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                      19.07.2000 23:09
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                      This is an extraordinary book by an extraordinary writer. Jung Chang traces the history of her Chinese family through three generations with a poignancy that makes you want to cry and a humour that makes you want to laugh out loud!! The book is long and requires some perseverence to begin with as Jung Chang delves through reams of Chinese history. However, when the biography really begins and the intricate lives of generations of Chinese women unfold, I promise that you'll be transfixed until the final page!

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                      11.07.2000 16:46
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                      Don't be put off reading this book by the sheer size of it as I was initially, because by the time you have finished reading it (and it won't take long, I promise you, because you won't be able to put it down!), you'll wish that it was even longer! Wild Swans is the true story of a Chinese family through four generations. Jung Chang tells her story with sensitivity and in such a way that the interest of the reader is maintained. This book mixes poignancy with humour and even horror at some of the descriptions of the sufferings of the Chang family. Jung Chang moves us through the generations of her family in a series of short stories, although the characters are wonderfully linked, not least because they are members of the same family. The only real criticism that I have with this book is that it takes a while for the reader's interest to develop as much of the first chapter deals with Chinese history. However, persevere, because after this you won't be able to put it down!

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                        05.07.2000 18:40
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                        This is truly a remarkable book, which successfully incorporates historical events with an extraordinary tale about a Chinese family. This real-life epic of Jung Chang’s family, starting from her grandmother’s generation up to hers, depicts living personal accounts which draw deep onto family affairs. It also serves as a memoir of the struggles of three generations in China against chaos, social injustice and wars from the turn of this century up to now. The author’s exceptional way to make her story so compelling comes from the fact that she is able to portray vividly the details of history of China in the twentieth century without sacrificing the personal touch of the records of life’s emotions and feelings. Whether your personal preference is on history or just mere domestic saga novel, this book is for you. There is no doubt why this book became the winner of the 1992 NCR Book Award and the 1993 British Book of the Year Award.

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