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Publisher's Summary

Between 1958 and 1962, 45 million Chinese people were worked, starved or beaten to death. Mao Zedong threw his country into a frenzy with the Great Leap Forward. It lead to one of the greatest catastrophes the world has ever known. Dikotter's extraordinary research within Chinese archives brings together for the first time what happened in the corridors of power with the everyday experiences of ordinary people. This groundbreaking account definitively recasts the history of the People's Republic of China.
©2010 Frank Dikotter (P)2012 W F Howes Ltd
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Customer Reviews

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By deborah on 01-09-12

Seminal book on Mao's failures

This audiobook will expose what most of us never knew: the People's Revolution hid a devastating loss of life through starvation and exhaustion. I also learned about the cult of personality and the role the Soviets played in this disaster. My only complaint was that the listing of data became tiresome, like steel tonnage exported, etc.

The best part of the story if the narration by David Bauckham. Clearly a well trained speaker of Mandarin, his articulation and inflection was spot on, and I never tired of his voice. Excellent book overall.

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10 of 10 people found this review helpful


By Eric Fish on 06-27-15

Great book, terrible audio reading

How did the narrator detract from the book?

The narrator clearly has no background whatsoever in reading texts with Chinese words, and it seems he couldn't be bothered to learn even approximate pronunciations. I'm not a language snob, and by no means expect perfection in this regard, but the pronunciations were so bad that I often had no clue what he was talking about. For example, Guangzhou became "Gwang-zoo," Liu Shaoqi became "Liu Shao-kee." And those were just some of the ones I was able to figure out based on context. Virtually every name and place was pronounced incorrectly, and these incorrect pronunciations weren't even consistent. I could figure out most of the time what he meant to say by the context, but it was very annoying when I had no clue what place or person was being discussed because of the abysmal pronunciations. It undermines the value as a learning tool. Save your money and buy the print version.

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

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By Dr S Bhatt on 04-23-17

An Amazing listen

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes, very moving and informative

Who was your favorite character and why?

NA

Which character – as performed by David Bauckham – was your favourite?

NA

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The description of how people living during the famine and the causes was riveting.

Any additional comments?

Really worth at listen. Highly recomended

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By Joanna on 02-25-17

I read this book while travelling around China...

I read this book while travelling around China and I have to say it made the trip have more depth, albeit harrowing at times. I feel I understood the country and the culture on a much deeper level as well as what was going on around me, even though most people didn't speak English. Of all of the countries I have been too (& there are many), China is not one I 'enjoyed''; I may go back to Beijing sometime, however, overall the feeling of China was not for me. This book gives you a great solid foundation of a piece of significant history for a great peoples of a large powerful country.

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Customer Reviews

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By Dr on 02-11-18

Outstanding book ruined by bad narration

What disappointed you about Mao's Great Famine?

The book was outstanding but its historical value was virtually rendered useless by the narration. With the narration as it is, a complimentary written version should be handed out as a courtesy to unsuspecting buyers.

What other book might you compare Mao's Great Famine to, and why?

The book has some small overlap with 'Mao: The Unknown Story' by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday. Both books deal with controversial historical subjects with proofs that have emerged comparatively recently and have led to the ongoing rethink of the entire Mao period.

What didn’t you like about David Bauckham’s performance?

Performing a book with difficult people, place and historical names has to be treated with extreme care and patient preparation. Particularly when dealing with a tonal language such as Chinese where the entire meaning changes depending on the tone of the pronunciation.

While the pronunciation can be researched and learned even if the text is in English, this narration suggests no preparation at all, judging by the dozen or so different pronunciations of just "Zhou En Lai" as one paltry example, let alone more obscure names readers may not be familiar with. If the narrator kept at least one pronunciation per name, we could have eventually worked out who that was.

Native and non-native speakers relying on narration will be largely confounded and non-speakers will simply insert 'blah blah' when an name in it's tenth pronunciation variation occurs. I would rather have had 'Jackie Chan' narrate this and mess up the English rather than mess up the Chinese names, people and places throughout the entire text which rendering it virtually useless apart from the events themselves.

Of lesser but significant annoyance is the occasional straying into a sanctimonious tone which resembles a children's bedtime story. It's distracting and irritating.

You didn’t love this book--but did it have any redeeming qualities?

As mentioned previously, without the written text, this audio book is a waste of time. Buy the printed version instead.

Any additional comments?

A complimentary written version should be handed out as a courtesy to unsuspecting buyers.

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