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Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China [Paperback]

Jung Chang
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (234 customer reviews)

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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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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent historical account May 28 2004
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
3.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing tale derailed by bloodless writing Dec 27 2003
By A Customer
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
3.0 out of 5 stars Might not be what you are looking for... June 2 2002
By Kyle J
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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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful personal story
Very informative look at 3 women's lives in China, written by a daughter, her mother and her grandmother. I couldn't stop reading it.
Published 26 days ago by C Osborne
4.0 out of 5 stars Three-Wild Swans
Though their lives were in turmoil, they preserve well, with their loving support of their extend family and themselves and work. Mao must have been a monster, Waah! Read more
Published 1 month ago by Maggz
5.0 out of 5 stars Wild Swans is an eye opener
I spent time in China last Fall and was told about this book by another traveller on the tour. After reading Wild Swans, I realized how naive I had been about the realities of... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Lise Levesque
2.0 out of 5 stars Wild Swans
I had to read this for a reading group. While it has some pluses, it is too overwrought, too long and somehow the personalities are not fleshed out other than the author's Father. Read more
Published 14 months ago by M. Elaine Hamilton
4.0 out of 5 stars Wild swans by Jung Chang
Good price , quick arrival, fine quality. Wild swans is a harrowing look at the real lives of Chinese women in the last three or four generations..
Published 14 months ago by judi hopewell
5.0 out of 5 stars Wild Swans
The tapes showed up before I was looking for them and I can't wait to listen to them. Thanks for meeting this need.
Published on March 14 2012 by pointone
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Memoir
I read this book while living/working in China, in 2001. The headmaster of the school where I was teaching, actually lent me the book. Read more
Published on Aug. 16 2006 by Katrina
4.0 out of 5 stars interesting but not deep
Very good personal story on the Chinese history. It is well written as well, but it is not that deep. Read more
Published on June 10 2006 by Expat-biz-Hong Kong
3.0 out of 5 stars a new , tragically human world to discover
Wild Swans , as the other reviews shows , is a blend of personal , political and memoir .............. Read more
Published on Nov. 16 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars a classic
this is a beautiful book. maybe even my favorite of many classics.
it is the story of three women, strong and united with a determination that will get them through the... Read more
Published on July 7 2004
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