I'm a costume designer, makeup artist, teacher, mom, knitter, baker, want-to-learn-how-to-do-it-all

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I'm a costume designer, makeup artist, teacher, mom, sewer, knitter, baker, want-to-learn-how-to-do-it-all, blogging, Costumed Beagle enthusiast. I am not always pleasant, although through intensive cupcake therapy I have learned not to throw knives at people anymore.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Book Review: Wild Swans; Three Daughters of China

Wild Swans; Three daughters of China
by Jung Chang

Whew.  It took me about 6 weeks to plow through this book.  That is a pretty long time for me to spend on any book, but this was not light Saturday sunshine by the pool reading.
It is a pretty hefty book to be sure (500 pages) but mostly it was subject matter.

Jung Chang takes us through three generations of her family starting with her grandmother who had bound feet and was a concubine in the early 1920's to her mother who fought for communism to Jung herself who battled with her family through the Cultural Revolution and the horrors of comrade Mao.

Like I said, not light reading.  Extremely interesting though.  I really didn't know much about China other that what I gleaned from the Beijing Olympics, and although I had a passing understanding of the rise of communism in China and what the cultural revolution was about (raise your hand if your thoughts immediately went to the movie The Red Violin...), but as Westerners we really aren't schooled much in the ways of the East.  They are very much the Other when it comes to culture, identity and history.

What was particularly fascinating was the very distinct clash of cultures that occurred as result of the "uprising" of the people.  Both between the old culture and the new as well as distinct geographical and educational clashes as China entered the 20th century and these revolutions forced university educated "city" people into the country to accept as their own (and often in positions of power above them) those who had lived as illiterate peasants and spoke completely different languages.

I was also keenly aware that my own bias was such, that when the author would mention conveniences or technology that I perceived as distinctly western, I was surprised that China had access to these things in the 50's & 60's.

While very informational and well written, it lacks ease of wording, which may make it hard for some to read, but which I attribute to English being a second language.

If the book has a fault, it is that is perhaps a touch too detailed.  My attention faltered in the mid-section of the book when she presented a very thorough account of the rise of communism in China.
In the book's defense, it must also be stated that I typically read right before I go to bed, and as much as I did enjoy the book, it only took about 10 minutes before it put me right out....hence why it took me so long to read it.

If you have even a feigning interesting in 20th century China, this would be a good book to read.

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2 comments:

  1. If you found this one interesting I highly recommend "Chinese Cinderella" and the sequel "Falling Leaves". They're autobiographies and absolutely fascinating. They cover some of that same time period but are very interesting and a fast read.
    I red another one that is similar too which was also pretty good, but I cannot remember the name of it... okay, I looked it up. "Shanghai Girls".

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  2. I loved this book. I agree that's not the easiest read but I feel like I gained an education reading it. I liked learning about the history of China through the lens of personal stories.

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