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335 of 351 found the following review helpful:
Truly touched and inspiredJan 02, 2000
By Ryan Brenner
When I sat down with Wild Swans, I had no expectations but to be informed and entertained by what I hoped would be a good book. I read to gain a personal understanding of the world in which we live through accounts and examples given by others of things I would never be able to experience first-hand. Never have I read a book that drew me in so powerfully and personally as Ms. Chang's Wild Swans. Wild Swans is epic in it's historical backdrop moving untirelessly through the last century of China, roughly between the years 1911 and 1976, but this is no textbook. You will never feel as though you just entered a lecture hall and are sitting through a journalistic or pedantic analysis of these turbulent times. This is the story of the author Jung Chang, her mother, and her grandmother. It is through their lives that history unfolds and is exposed. From the end of Imperial China, through Japanese occupation, the Nationalist movement, the Civil War between the Kuomintang and the Communists, Communist takeover, Mao's Great Leap Forward starving tens of millions to death, the Cultural Revolution turning a national identity upon it's head and breaking it's collective spirit in the process, to Mao Zedong's death, you will be amazed at what you learn in this book about the capacity of the heart to perservere and triumph. I couldn't help but to feel ashamed at the provincial life we are handed in our land of freedom, and at once be thankful that we are so endowed. Jung Chang explores her family so deeply that her subjects, such as her stoic father, a true beliver in the Communist cause, and her grandmother, a veritable symbol through her bound feet of a time and place long gone, become indelibly etched upon the mind of the reader. By the end of Wild Swans, you will feel you know China and Ms. Chang and her family intimately. This book fulfills whatever you set out to obtain or attain when you devote time to reading. If you have never been afraid to crack a book, let this fall into your hands, enter your heart, and enrich your life and in the end, thank Jung Chang for opening your eyes. Thank you, Chang Jung.
193 of 207 found the following review helpful:
Would that It Were More HonestJan 24, 2004
By Xujun Eberlein
The first half of this book is well written and quite interesting as a personal memoir; the rest is less engaging, as it became closer to a chronicle than a memoir. Even still, I have mainly admiration and not criticism for the writing; it is the content that concerns me. I am from the same province as the author and also lived through the Cultural Revolution. Westerners might have heard only about the Red Guards, however all Party members, including those who later became victims, were participants in the movement (and other movements before the Cultural Revolution). I can understand why the author chose to portray her parents as purely victims or even heroes against the Revolution -- after all, we Chinese have thousands of years of tradition "avoiding anything that may compromise the name of an intimate." In reality, it was simply impossible for a Party cadre like the author's parents not to be an active participant in the movements, until they themselves become victimized. To me this was the true tragedy for us Chinese. I wish the book had been more honest in this aspect and given a more complete picture to western readers about what happened. I think this honesty would make the book even more valuable.
Another thing that bothers me is that the author chose to translate "xuan-chuan-bu" ("the Department of Propaganda") as "the Department of Public Affair". She noted this was "in order to describe their functions accurately". But the former translation is far more accurate, literally and in terms of function. Perhaps this change was made because the author's father was a co-director of such a department in the Communist Party. Such a change seems unnecessary to me.
71 of 75 found the following review helpful:
ReviewDec 06, 1999
By Sandra Wang
During dinner time one night, my sister and father developed a thoughtful conversation over the Communist revolution of China. My initial reaction was amazement. I had previously believed that my sister was like me: an American born Chinese completely unschooled in anything relating to our ethnicity. As I picked up scraps of their conversation, which coursed from the "Manchukuo" period under the Japanese rule to Mao's communist reign, I wondered how my sister had absorbed all of the information of this intensive period. To my relief, I discovered that I did not have to pick up a history text book in order to become familiar with Chinese history; I could instead visualize the past through a memoir of three generations of Chinese women in Jung Chang's Wild Swans. Wild Swans is insightful and descriptive in uncovering a tumultuous era that spans from 1924 to 1978. However, Wild Swans is more than a chronicle of China's events during this period; Chang's book is an account of how war and revolution personally affected Jung's grandmother, her mother, and herself. The moving stories of these courageous and characteristically different women bring life and meaning to China's twentieth century cultural revolution. Chang's chapter titles are clever; her writing style is direct, needing little embellishment in order to retell the fascinating lives of her family. Chang also discusses how the three women are molded by the societal trends of each generation. Educative and personal, Wild Swans is a tribute to family and friends, and a celebration of the lives of "Three daughters of China." I found Wild Swans to be captivating and emotional in its direct portrayal of the determination of these women to survive and adhere to their duties, whether they are to themselves, their loved ones, or to their country. Wild Swans may be at times difficult to read, due to vivid and sometimes graphic accounts of certain events, but it is equally heart warming in its account of victories. Wild Swans is definitely worth reading!
41 of 42 found the following review helpful:
A magnificent workAug 24, 1998
I'm deeply moved by this book. Thank Jung Chang for writing such a great book.
I am from Mainland China. I came to U.S for graduate study five years ago. I felt difficult to breathe when I closed the book because it reminds me the stories of my family in china. The similar thing happened to them, not so worse than Ms. Chang's, but also painful and intolerable. They experienced the collapse of Qing dynasty, warlord chaos, Japanese invasion, civil war and communist control.
My parents moved from Shanghai to an inland small town with dedicated hearts to communist party in 1956 but they suffered all the time. They are must ordinary people. My mother is as old as Jung Chang's mother - Hong, there were endless meetings against her in each of political movements in 20 years. My mom is not a party member, working in a factory as a product planning staff. She was badly treated only because she was from a landlord family and with a oversea sister. My grandfather, my father suffered similar spiritual torture. My home was searched several times in Culture Revoluation, almost all books, magzines and jewelry (including the wedding ring of my parents) are burned or confiscated.A few months after I was born in 1968, my father was sent to "Cadre school" (kind of labor camp) to receive re-education. My uncle was marked as "rightist" in 1957 and his whole family was discriminated all the time until 1978. My elder sister went to the countryside too and her annul wage was merely 50 pounds of yams and 200 pounds of wheat.
I didn't suffer so much compared with my parents and my sisters. Everything is getting better since 1978. I was a good student and went to college with many dreams. Again, in 1989, the gunshot and blood in Tianmen Square broke them all prior to my graduation.
The history of china is like a cycle: the periodic construction and destruction. My heart is saying I should go back to my homeland, but who knows I can avoid the same fates of my parents?
In fact, I read Wild Swans in Chinese first. I happened to borrow it from my local library east Asia section, it's translated to Chinese and published by Taiwan. I can't stop reading when I opened the book. All the depiction is like real life movie floating before my eyes. I highly recommend it that's why I browse your website to get a original version for myself and for my American friends.
91 of 101 found the following review helpful:
it blew me awayMay 23, 2000
By M. H. Bayliss
I can't believe more people don't know about this incredible book. It's beautifully written and tremendously informative. I agree with the reviewer below who said that it's the best book on 20th century China. And what a movie it would make if done right. Still, I'm taking away from the book itself -- if you think it's tough reading Holocaust literature, try this -- the Japanese and the Chinese committed the most horrible tortures and crimes on each other you can imagine, yet the author dwells on the hope and the love of her family despite the horrors she recounts. One of the most moving books you'll ever read.
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