The story of three generations in twentieth-century China that blends the intimacy of memoir and the panoramic sweep of eyewitness history—a bestselling classic in thirty languages with more than ten million copies sold around the world, now with a new introduction from the author.
An engrossing record of Mao’s impact on China, an unusual window on the female experience in the modern world, and an inspiring tale of courage and love, Jung Chang describes the extraordinary lives and experiences of her family members: her grandmother, a warlord’s concubine; her mother’s struggles as a young idealistic Communist; and her parents’ experience as members of the Communist elite and their ordeal during the Cultural Revolution. Chang was a Red Guard briefly at the age of fourteen, then worked as a peasant, a “barefoot doctor,” a steelworker, and an electrician. As the story of each generation unfolds, Chang captures in gripping, moving—and ultimately uplifting—detail the cycles of violent drama visited on her own family and millions of others caught in the whirlwind of history.
Bursting with drama, heartbreak and horror, this extraordinary family portrait mirrors China's century of turbulence. Chang's grandmother, Yu-fang, had her feet bound at age two and in 1924 was sold as a concubine to Beijing's police chief. Yu-fang escaped slavery in a brothel by fleeing her ``husband'' with her infant daughter, Bao Qin, Chang's mother-to-be. Growing up during Japan's brutal occupation, free-spirited Bao Qin chose the man she would marry, a Communist Party official slavishly devoted to the revolution. In 1949, while he drove 1000 miles in a jeep to the southwestern province where they would do Mao's spadework, Bao Qin walked alongside the vehicle, sick and pregnant (she lost the child). Chang, born in 1952, saw her mother put into a detention camp in the Cultural Revolution and later ``rehabilitated.'' Her father was denounced and publicly humiliated; his mind snapped, and he died a broken man in 1975. Working as a ``barefoot doctor'' with no training, Chang saw the oppressive, inhuman side of communism. She left China in 1978 and is now director of Chinese studies at London University. Her meticulous, transparent prose radiates an inner strength. Photos. BOMC alternate.
Best book read in 2011
This book was recommended by a couple of fellow travelers during our cruise/land trip to China and Tibet via Viking River Cruises. It was fascinating to read about this family and their lives during the changing times in China and especially so, since we had just been there. After having read novels touching on these years, being able to read the biography/memoir gave insights that would be impossible to glean otherwise. It was my favorite read this year and I found that I couldn't put it down. The strength of love for each member, the honesty about their difficult lives, and really hard decisions that affected everyone in the family, made these people very real and memorable.
This book was amazing; totally engaging and personal. We are about to travel to China and it helped me understand more about the politics and the people. This book is also deeply philosophical and her assessments can be applied to many current situations in the world. I highly recommend.
A wonderful account that is history through personal experience. It gives a window on everyday life, particularly during the Cultural Revolution that no documentary or historian could reveal. I hope there's a sequel!