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

by Jung Chang

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6,248130647 (4.13)1 / 359
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. 31
    The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck (ominogue)
  2. 20
    The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan (Jennie_103)
    Jennie_103: Another story of generations of chinese women.
  3. 00
    Red China Blues: My Long March From Mao to Now by Jan Wong (Nickelini)
    Nickelini: Another interesting memoir about a young woman's excitement and then disillusionment at Mao's China.
  4. 00
    Eighth Moon: The True Story of a Young Girl's Life in Communist China by Bette Lord (MarthaJeanne)
  5. 00
    Wild Ginger by Anchee Min (mcenroeucsb)
  6. 00
    Mother's Ordeal: One Woman's Fight Against China's One-Child Policy by Steven W. Mosher (inbedwithbooks)
  7. 00
    Falling Leaves: The Memoir of an Unwanted Chinese Daughter by Adeline Yen Mah (loriephillips)
  8. 00
    A Thread of Sky by Deanna Fei (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: A fictional story of three generations of Chinese American women who travel back to China together.
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English (104)  Dutch (9)  German (4)  Spanish (4)  Swedish (2)  Hebrew (1)  Danish (1)  Catalan (1)  French (1)  Japanese (1)  All (1)  All (129)
Showing 1-5 of 104 (next | show all)
The amount of time it took me to read this probably doesn't reflect how interesting I found it: it's a fascinating on-the-ground account of China between the start of the 20th century and the reforms that followed the death of Mao. It begins with a woman being offered up to a warlord and ends with another going to see a West End show – if nothing else it's a wonderful demonstration of how far life can take you.

With China now playing a greater and greater role in all of our lives, it's also a reminder of how, not so very long ago, the country was all but cut off from the rest of the world. Most of the major events you'd expect to crop up in a Western or even Russian memoir covering this period (the First World War, the Third Reich, the Cuban Missile Crisis) aren't even mentioned.

Instead we're made very aware of how brutal, arbitrary and even absurd life was for many Chinese during the 20th century, and particularly during the Cultural Revolution. "The more books you read, the stupider you become," Mao proclaimed: so the author began work as a doctor without any training at all. Actions as innocuous as stamp collecting, looking in a mirror, and embracing under a lamppost were deemed bourgeois, either at the direction of the chairman or of some follower enthusiastically trying to interpret order in his worldview.

The only thing I can think it is comparable to is Cambodia under Pol Pot (though it's also a reminder that denouncing 'experts' never ends well – *names*), and it's in stark contrast to Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia – two totalitarian regimes probably more familiar to a Western reader – which are often characterised as a brutal imposition of 'order'. I guess that also demonstrates how Western-centric our view of history is – and what matters to China is only going to get more important in this 21st century. ( )
1 vote m_k_m | Mar 3, 2017 |
Astonishingly moving account of the momentous events that have enveloped China and its people in the Twentieth Century. A book vast in its scope - the unending rise and fall of despotism, hierarchies, hopes and fears through decades of upheaval, slaughter and visionary aspiration - and yet focussed on the individual experiences, suffering, horrors and wonders of a nation constantly at war within itself and with the world at large. A breath-taking masterpiece. ( )
  tommi180744 | Feb 28, 2017 |
A good read about the long march and the Cultural Revolution. ( )
  siok | Jan 30, 2017 |
In my mid-20s I read this book along with Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and War & Peace. Three generational histories set on different continents in my grandparents time. I was working at an international airport at the time, and it changed the way I understood all of the thousands of people who arrived and departed every day. When I looked at their ages and nationalities, I started to wonder "what have you lived through? which oppression did you survive? will your children have a better life than you have?"
20 years later, they are questions I still ask. ( )
1 vote andrewlorien | Jan 22, 2017 |
Provided a great insight to ~1900-1980 era of China. Almost impossible to believe people could behave as described - just madness. Interesting question I have is how might one best anticipate and react to something like the Cultural Revolution where both government position and education were not only not helpful but in fact harmful and where personal associations no matter how tenuous might lead to denunciation, torture, or death. Interesting also to think about how this relates to today's United States with regard to the antiintellectual cultural trends and with regard to the ubiquity of social networks such as facebook and government gathering of phone records and the like. Will my grandchildren be punished because I have the wrong friend on facebook some day? ( )
1 vote bzbooks | Jan 4, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 104 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (33 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jung Changprimary authorall editionscalculated
Castelli Gair, GianTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Castelli-Gair Hombría, GianTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chu-tanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gair, Gian CastelliTranslatorsecondary 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.
Quotations
With luck, one could fall in love after getting married
They had been brought up in the fanatical personality cult of Mao and the militant doctrine of "class struggle".  They were endowed with the qualities of youth - they were rebellious, fearless, eager to fight for a "just cause", thirsty for adventure and action.  They were also irresponsible, ignorant and easy to manipulate - and prone to violence.
When I came home that afternoon, I found my father in the kitchen. He had lit a fire in the big cement sink, and was hurling his books into the flames.
This was the first time in my life I had seen him weeping. It was agonized, broken, and wild, the weeping of a man who was not used to shedding tears. Every now and then, in fits of violent sobs, he stamped his feet on the floor and banged his head against the wall.
... My father had spent every spare penny on his books. They were his life. After the bonfire, I could tell that something had happened to his mind.
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:53 -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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