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Would you consider the audio edition of Wild Swans to be better than the print version?
Not necessarily. I have the print version and consider both valuable.
What did you like best about this story?
Although I was familiar with the outlines of this period in China, I found the personal story of the family that goes through the experiences of drastic changes riveting.
If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?
Maybe something like "adapt or die" or "what seems to be true isn't" or "you can't always get what you want and sometimes you can't even get what you need"
Any additional comments?
Amazing story, well told.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Enthralling story. Well written, beautifully read. Truly an anazing story told across generations intertwined with a balance of history and information.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
One of the most astonishing books you'll ever hear. Astonishing in its detail, recall and portrayal of life in 20th century China. From its origins in the Empirical style late 19th Century, to rule under the feared Kuomintang, the rise of the Communist Party and the emergence of Mao and his reign of terror, on finishing I want to start all over again, so much will I miss Jung Chang's captivating story and stories, told in extraordinary detail. This epic tale captures the mind's eye on first listen and holds it there throughout. At times it was deeply harrowing, shocking and moved me to tears. The narration is superb - fitting and easy to listen to. I have wanted to read Wild Swans for 20 years and it surpassed all expectations. Listen to this great book - you will not be disappointed.
12 of 12 people found this review helpful
I have never read anything about China, I am so happy I have read this. It has explained so much that I had no knowledge about. I am looking forward to learning more especially if it means that Jung Chang has written it. Thank you for sharing your family's amazing story .
11 of 11 people found this review helpful
This book is very long but flows well as you listen to it. The history described is fascinating and a very interesting, personal insight into the situation over this near 100 year period.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?
Any additional comments?
I had just finished reading the historian Frank Dikötter's ‘Mao's Great Famine'. An outstanding diligently produced work, scientifically researched and humanely written.
I was looking for corroborating 'grass-roots' accounts and came across this book and was initially excited at the idea of such an auspicious cross-generational account.
This book is filed in the Amazon store as [#4 in Books > History > Asia > China], [ #5 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > History > Asia > China] and [ #15 in Books > History > World > Women in History].
In reality, to me this is a 'movie script' with the usual cliché proviso, 'based on real events'.
After enthusiastically launching myself into the book, by the end of the first third I had had enough. This humourless, tedious book obviously bypassing any editorial competency had by then established itself to me as an utterly self-serving contrived account targeted towards a perceived market niche. I forced myself to throw in good-time-after-bad to finish it in the vain hope it would turn eventually get better. It didn't.
The preposterous level of detail of second and third party accounts, not just in actions but in 'what they were thinking and feeling' smacks of a level of embellishment that probably works well in the English Chardonnay-drinking post-modernist scene where anecdotes are inseparable from factual history.
You would probably enjoy this book enormously if you knew nothing about China, its history, people, their past-and-present education systems, their culture or language and always had that fascination with red flags, bicycles and fanatical pictures of Mao (and a penchant for women's magazine articles).
If on the other hand, you were middle-aged, lived and worked and taught there, married into the culture, had a good grasp of the language, had an extended family of in-laws many of whom had lived through this period who were now in their 80's, had spent numerous hours interviewing them, you might be a bit more circumspect in separating detail from spin.
The underlying unlikely self-importance of the writer's family and herself written in a neo-Charles-Dickensian tone, the constant equating of her Chinese life to English cultural and literary clichés is laughable. It almost makes me doubt the authorship. While being careful to portray and translate her and her family's 'model Chinese values' within the context of the madness of the time, the noble monocular interpretation of her accounts (such as that of her father's fanatical stupidity) is a frustrating read, despite understanding her cultural need for filial piety.
The notion of the author, a teenage culturally enlightened red guard 'Scout Finch' ignorant of and isolated from the monstrosity and brutality around her while secretly occupying herself in 'Chekov' and writing poetry (none of which seems to have survived) may go a long way to (shall we say) 'abstract' her from those and the events that happened around her.
As an aside, a Chinese teenager brought up in the fanatical environment of xenophobic Chinese countryside of Sichuan during the 70's passionately reading Chekov is somewhat akin to a 70's teenager from say, the mountains of 'Arkansas' claiming to understand the collected works of 'Li Bai' and then putting that on their CV. Actually, banning Li Bai in advance would be necessary to make it closer to the book.
The problem books such as this that mix embellished anecdotes with known factual general knowledge is that they dilute, cast doubt and get a 'free ride' over the hard-won historical accounts. The painstaking researched accounts and records that belong to humanity and deserve preservation and should instruct and warn humanity never to make the same mistakes. in China's current climate, the re-emergence of isolationism, xenophobia and communist conservatism coupled with tendencies towards nationalist policies, deification of 'Xi think' and massive use of technology for control should indicate that China has 'peaked-out' in its own version of post-Deng 'perestroika' (if there ever was one).
One area avoided at the end of the book which had my curiosity aroused more by its omission than by any expectation of a meaningful account was why and how she 'jumped ship' to stay in the west. Perhaps it might have been hard to fit that into the train of 'idealised events'.
If this book wasn't put forward as so-called history, I wouldn't be as indignant in my review. If a similar book emerged from some turnip-boy escaping a communist backwater of post-war Europe, it would hardly have been held in such high historical regard. But because it’s China, we want to believe almost anything because ‘they are so different’.
If you're only looking for a story, or a 'ripping yarn' I guess this book would be fun. Sort of like 'Memories of a Geisha' or Tony Blair's biography which I once saw a shopper mercifully drag over from the 'biography' section and put on the 'fiction' shelf at an airport bookstore. If on the other hand you're looking for objective accurate researched history and lasting meaningfulness to society, read something by Frank Dikötter instead.