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Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China Paperback – May 4 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: HarperPerennial UK (May 4 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007176155
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007176151
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 522 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (236 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #961,115 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Lemas Mitchell on May 28 2004
Format: Paperback
This book does something that most people don't get around to doing when they say this or that about China: Provide historical detail. Specifically of interest:
1. The reason that the Kuomintang was not successful in China was constant corruption. Some people have suggested that Chinese people love tyrants (Jasper Becker, "The Chinese") and this is the explanation of why they rejected what would have been a democratic government for an authoritarian government. This is partially true, but the Kuomintang blew any chance that it had at legitimacy with its rampant corruption.
2. That the Communist Party became popular because they promised to not be like the corrupt and crooked Kuomintang. Her father is an example of one of the wide-eyed idealists that really believed in his cause at the beginning and was left a broken man when he saw what actually became of this grand vision. People at Western universities are always attacking the West and praising the Communist ideology/ governent allocation of resources, and they haven't a faintest idea of the actual RESULTS of the intended programs. Nor do they understand the incentive structures that led to those results.
3. Historical accounts of the great famine. I can't believe that this very afternoon, there are still people trying to talk away this historical event in China and say that it was just a statistical illusion. This is the second author that I've read that gives historical accounts of people eating their children.
4. Demonstrating how the cult of Mao was created and maintained, as well as what were his motives in the various campaigns (Cultural Revolution/ The Great Leap Forward) that swept the country during his reign.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on Dec 27 2003
Format: Paperback
The author states that the Chinese are not given to public displays of emotion. Unfortunately, that seems to translate to the written word as well and nearly brings to a halt what could have been an exciting, informative, heartfelt book.
The section of the book that concerns Jung Chang's grandmother is probably the most interesting and accessible of the tales of the three women. Here, the author does a good job highlighting the social and cultural mores of the time and breathes a bit of individual life into the people whose history she's telling us about. However, it doesn't last.
I found much of the writing about her mother and about Chang herself felt like it had been written at a remove from the subject matter. Chang simply uses short, declarative statements such as "My mother was angry at my father again", "I was sad", "I was afraid", "My brother was worried", et cetera, instead of attempting to help illustrate an emotional state or mindset of someone for the reader. Yes, the short sentences get the point across, but they remove all the indivuality from Chang and her family. These people have no individual voice and are interchangeable. For example, when Chang writes that her mother yells at her father, I don't hear her mother at all. I just read the words because that's all they are: words. It's as if Chang was focusing on the language instead of the people. Plus, her insistence on recounting the minutiae of everyone's life/day (especially her own) covers up those moments in a deluge of detail.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kyle J on June 2 2002
Format: Paperback
Jung Chang's book Wild Swans attempts to capture all major events from the end of the 19th century to the late 20th century happening in China. The book follows three generations of Chang's family, starting with her grandmother and ending with Chang. Of the many changes that occurred during the time period, Chang seems most fixated upon communism. Imperial China, Nationalist (Kuomintang) China, and the Japanese occupation are all only described briefly in Wild Swans.
Wild Swans is supposed to be a story of "Three Daughters of China"; however it is far from it. First off the book is a lengthy 508 pages and is split unevenly among the three generations of women. After the first hundred pages, the communist section begins. Chang makes it obvious that she despises communism. When Mao Zedong dies Chang states "The news filled me with such euphoria that for an instant I was numb." Undoubtedly communism was a major part of life for all Chinese; however after page 100, every single anecdote dealt with communism. Chang must have had other stories to tell but she does not tell them. The stories are all negative and they grow increasingly shocking and critical of communism as the book progresses. In chapter 7, Jung Chang's mother, in order prove herself to be a devoted communist, is forced to forage for food even though she is pregnant. In chapter 20, Chang's father is arrested by communist authorities after speaking his mind. In chapter 22, the whole family is split apart and sent to the countryside for "re-education".
Wild Swans is really an open attack on communism. It is fine for Jung Chang to write such a book. I would recommend it "whole-heartedly" if you are interested in reading a book containing bits and pieces of the communist life in China. However, if you are looking for a more comprehensive history, do not expect much from Wild Swans.
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