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Wild Swans by Jung Chang
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Wild Swans (original 1991; edition 2004)

by Jung Chang

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
5,658106754 (4.12)1 / 299
Member:SaraJudith
Title:Wild Swans
Authors:Jung Chang
Info:Harpercollins Audio (2004), Edition: Abridged, Audio CD
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:None

Work details

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang (1991)

  1. 00
    Wild Ginger by Anchee Min (mcenroeucsb)
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    Red China Blues: My Long March From Mao to Now by Jan Wong (Nickelini)
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    Eighth Moon: The True Story of a Young Girl's Life in Communist China by Bette Lord (MarthaJeanne)
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    The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan (Jennie_103)
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    Anonymous user: A fictional story of three generations of Chinese American women who travel back to China together.
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    Falling Leaves: The Memoir of an Unwanted Chinese Daughter by Adeline Yen Mah (loriephillips)
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English (84)  Dutch (9)  Spanish (3)  Swedish (2)  German (2)  Danish (1)  Hebrew (1)  Japanese (1)  Catalan (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  All languages (105)
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I don't consider this an autobiography. There are no sources listed other than a series of recordings that the author made with her mother in the 1980's about the family history. Without sources and citations to back up what is said this is a memoir.

As a memoir it works quite well. The author makes no secret of her biases and viewpoints. Her greatest mistake is that the projects these viewpoints onto others of her family. Even so this is riveting reading. It is an insiders look at the Cultural Revolution and how the Communist party worked, and to some degree, still works, in modern China. The important part of this book is that it explains how China made the transition from Developing Country to the powerhouse Developed Country it is today. For that alone I would recommend this book, even with its faults. ( )
  benitastrnad | Jul 5, 2014 |
A truly moving and stunning biographical work, Chang tells the three interconnected stories of her grandmother, mother and herself, together all of whom experienced the most tumultuous century in Chinese history. Her gift of writing not only brings the shocking events to life, but the reader feels for each character and is moved by their stories and hardships. This book is obviously deeply personal to Chang, and it reads so: like reading a collection of diaries. An important book to read to understand the personal impacts the last century has had on the Chinese. ( )
  xuebi | May 30, 2014 |
This biography of three generations of women in Jung Chang's family is also a history of China and its politics from the early 20th century through the end of the Cultural Revolution and Mao's death in 1976. Chang's grandmother was the concubine of a warlord and was among the last generation of women to have bound feet. Chang's mother joined the underground Communist movement in her teens. She married a fellow communist who became one of the top Party officials in the province of Sichuan. Chang's mother also held a leadership position until the Cultural Revolution changed everything. Both of Chang's parents were denounced, lost their positions, and underwent years of physical and mental persecution. Despite the separation of the family – Chang's parents were sent to separate work camps and she and her siblings were required to live at their schools with their classmates – the family maintained strong emotional ties.

Chang's father deeply believed in the principles of Communism, and he lived as he believed. Social privileges were determined by a person's rank in the Party, and Chang's father would not allow his wife (who had a lower Party rank) or his children to benefit from the privileges that went with his status. Unfortunately, when he was denounced as a “capitalist-roader”, his status attached to his family and limited their future prospects.

It was too dangerous for Chang's parents to teach their children anything contradictory to the Party line (even though the Party line constantly changed and often contradicted itself). Any doubts they had about Mao's leadership were not communicated to their children. As a child, Chang unquestioningly accepted Mao's teachings, and when her experiences and observations contradicted what she had been taught, she questioned her experience rather than the doctrine. Her disillusionment with Mao's Cultural Revolution was gradual but irrevocable. In the words of one chapter heading, Chang finally realized that “if this is Paradise, what then is Hell?” In the course of the Cultural Revolution, Chang witnessed the destruction of thousands of years of China's cultural heritage – its landscape ravaged, its architecture and monuments destroyed, and its books burned.

I wasn't as engaged with the first part of the book that describes the life and experiences of Chang's mother and grandmother before Chang's birth. I kept wondering how Chang could possibly know so many details about things that happened before she was born. I spent a lot of time with my parents and grandparents and heard many stories about their early lives, but I doubt that I could write their biographies in such detail. There's a qualitative difference in the writing once Chang begins describing her personal experiences, and the book became a page-turner for me at that point. In the afterword, Chang mentions that her mother spent several months with her in England ten years after Chang had left China, and her mother spent most of that time talking to Chang about her life and Chang's grandmother's life. She left Chang about sixty hours of recordings. I wish that had been communicated in an introduction rather than an afterword. I would have appreciated that part of the book more if I hadn't been questioning Chang's source of information. ( )
  cbl_tn | May 25, 2014 |
This is a family story, telling the lives of 3 generations of a Chinese family. They are very different lives set, almost, in very different times. Grandmother was a concubine to a Warlord, mother was a Communist at the start of Communism in China and the daughter (the author of this book) is disillusioned with Mao and the cultural revolution and leaves to live in the West. They are very different lives and the hardship imposed on them is, at times, awfully hard to read. As a family histoty, it works well. Where I feel it doesn;t work as well are that the author allows her views to colour the lives of the previous generations, from early on the "Mao bad" influence is quite clearly seen, even if, at the time, that was probably not the prevailing view of the population or of the people who's lives she is recounting. I also found the statements about the mood and thoughts of the senior leaders to be disconcerting as there is no footnote or evidence presented that the statement is believed to be correct. But those are minor quibbles about tone, I cannot disagree that the content is remarkable and deserves to be widely read. ( )
  Helenliz | Apr 27, 2014 |
Just started reading this morning. Good so far. ( )
  Susanna.Dilliott | Apr 23, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jung Changprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Chu-tanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hout, Bert Willem van derCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Syrier, PaulTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To my grandmother and my father who did not live to see this book
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At the age of fifteen my grandmother became the concubine of a warlord general, the police chief of a tenuous national government of China.
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With luck, one could fall in love after getting married
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Book description
Alleen schrijvers met een uitzonderlijk talent lukt het om grote historische gebeurtenissen zo te beschrijven dat de lezer diep geëmotioneerd raakt. Een schrijver moet ook over veel overtuigings- en verbeeldingskracht beschikken om de lezer deelgenoot te maken van de gevoelens die de personages beheersen. Over dat talent beschikt de Chinese schrijfster Jung Chang. In Wilde zwanen, drie dochters van China vertelt zij de buitengewone levensgeschiedenis van haar grootmoeder, concubine van een generaal in het feodale China; en ten slotte het indrukwekkende verhaal hoe zij zelf als jong meisje in China opgroeide. Wilde zwanen geeft een panoramische visie van drie vrouwen op een complexe samenleving in de vorm van intieme memoires, prachtige portretten en verteld als een meeslepende kroniek van het twintigste-eeuwse China. En ondanks de haast onvoorstelbare gruwelen die de familie van Jung Chang ten deel zijn gevallen en die door de auteur op bijna onderkoelde manier worden beschreven, is Wilde zwanen een indrukwekkende getuigenis van optimistisch geloof in een rechtvaardige samenleving met gelijke rechten en gelijke kansen voor ieder individu.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0743246985, Paperback)

In Wild Swans Jung Chang recounts the evocative, unsettling, and insistently gripping story of how three generations of women in her family fared in the political maelstrom of China during the 20th century. Chang's grandmother was a warlord's concubine. Her gently raised mother struggled with hardships in the early days of Mao's revolution and rose, like her husband, to a prominent position in the Communist Party before being denounced during the Cultural Revolution. Chang herself marched, worked, and breathed for Mao until doubt crept in over the excesses of his policies and purges. Born just a few decades apart, their lives overlap with the end of the warlords' regime and overthrow of the Japanese occupation, violent struggles between the Kuomintang and the Communists to carve up China, and, most poignant for the author, the vicious cycle of purges orchestrated by Chairman Mao that discredited and crushed millions of people, including her parents.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:49:28 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

A Chinese woman chronicles the struggle of her grandmother, her mother, and herself to survive in a China torn apart by wars, invasions, revolution, and continuing upheaval, from 1907 to the present.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 11 descriptions

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