Thursday, October 4, 2012
Book Review: Wild Swans by Jung Chang
Author: Jung Chang
Enjoyment Rating: ***
Source: Personal Copy
Books I've read this year: 102
This book came highly recommended. So highly recommended that after letting it fall into the part of my nightstand pile that I never quite manage to get to, I plucked it out and forced myself to read. Last year at this time, all I wanted to read was books about China. Now that we're preparing to bring another kid home, reading books about China feels more like eating my vegetables. That's probably because I read so many adorable, fun memoirs last year, which leaves me to read things like histories, which are important and necessary reading, but I don't necessarily enjoy them. Wild Swans tells the story of Jung Chang, born in the early 1950s in China to parents who were provincial leaders in the Communist Party, as well as her mother and grandmother.
The story itself is remarkable-- the women in this family experienced everything from foot binding and concubinage, to Civil War, World War, the Great Leap Forward, famine, imprisonment, work camps, and finally, moving to the west for higher education. The family's story is really worth hearing, because it humanizes the big events of the 20th century and makes them painfully real.
However, the narrative style made the book difficult to read. The author constantly refers to her mother as "my mother" instead of by name, which made it hard to keep track of who was who. I also found myself skimming toward the end, possibly because I had reached a saturation point with the events of the story. But it's still an important story to read and one that definitely broadened my understanding of Chinese history.