Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China Paperback – May 4 2004
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Top Customer Reviews
I still find myself looking at an elderly Chinese person, and wondering what their life was like when they were younger. Every one of them could write a memoir which would be equally as gripping as this one.
This book is excellent. I loved it, and couldn't put it down. I've lent it out many times, and plan to read it again!
Wild Swans is what I would term a "human-interest history," meaning that the dry historical aspect of the book is tempered by the human emotion surrounding the individual events. Jung Chang uses the female leaders of each generation to provide a thoughtful outlook on the traditions and culture of China. For me, the best way to gain a true feel for the attitudes of a specific time period is to hear a personal account. This is the book's most salient quality. Chang makes the most of the little details that encompass the environment of the characters and uses the thoughts and feelings of her family to convey key concepts pertaining to Chinese morals and behaviors.
The concise language of the book also helps to promote these historical images and gives the book a quick tempo. Each anecdote is told in the same, somewhat removed manner, even Chang's own experiences. While some might find this an impersonal tactic, I felt that it allowed the tragedies of the story to shine by basing them purely on their own facets. Any extraneous writing would have clouded the sheer pain involved in a number of the events, and Chang's distance allows the reader to recreate the scene and absorb the historical depth behind it.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
This isn't the worst book I have ever read, I'm about 3/4 through it and still reading, so obviously it has some appeal. Read morePublished 6 months ago by C. Hutchinson
The story behind this book is fascinating, but the book would have benefitted from serious editing. The author's story of the harrowing times in China from pre-WWII through the... Read morePublished 8 months ago by K. Lynn Meyer
This is a first-hand telling of the personal history of modern China... And a woman's perspective at that. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Mary McKim
I did not realize that it would be tape, not disc and was too abridged.Published 16 months ago by Judy Elting
Sounded really good and I was excited to read it. I very rarely give up on a book, but this was boring and difficult to read. It was neither a story nor a history book. Read morePublished 17 months ago by jef
Revealing truths, spiritual strengths and weaknesses of women and men living with courage to overcome circumstances and events common to a powerful nation.Published 18 months ago by Shirley Reid
Excellent writing. Details were captivating. Looking forward to reading more books by Jung Chang.Published 18 months ago by Linda Mizzivl