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Becoming Madame Mao

3.55  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,714 Ratings  ·  322 Reviews
From the best-selling author of RED AZALEA, this extraordinary novel tells the stirring, erotically charged story of Madame Mao Zedong, the woman almost universally known as the 'white-boned demon, ' whom many hold directly responsible for the excesses of the Cultural Revolution. Bringing her lush psychological insight to bear on the facts of history, Min penetrates the my ...more
ebook, 352 pages
Published April 15th 2001 by Mariner Books (first published 2000)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Sep 14, 2011 Mariel rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Eva Braun
Recommended to Mariel by: don't cry for me China
Who knew Chairman Mao was so hot?

Oh that was shameless, Mariel. Way to start off a book review! With sex! Bad, bad, bad. Historical figures shouldn't be used to write cheesey love scenes. They should be used to advertise products on tv and that's it! Anchee Min, you're shameless. Have you no shame?

I don't feel like writing two Madam Mao book reviews so I'm going to shamelessly combine reviews of this chick lit book with a review of a biography written by an Australian guy that could have been
alana Semuels
This gets two stars instead of the one it probably deserves because it's an interesting premise. A human side to Madame Mao. But its told in three different voices -- often on the same page -- which makes it difficult to follow and not very engaging. You never get very close to the character, which is the whole point of a book like this. I read in the afterword that it took 5 years to get published, and I wonder if the publisher played around with it a lot or something. I kept thinking it read l ...more
Kevin Barrett
Dec 17, 2008 Kevin Barrett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved it. It combines three things I love; China, historical fiction, and a strong female lead.

This book is written as if it were a memoir of the wife of Mao Zidong. Anchee Min pieced the story together with various historical records and all of the characters in the book were actual people. We see her as a young girl refusing to submit to having her feet bound, to a young lady who pursues Mao out of intrigue and a desire for power. From the neglected wife kept hidden from the Chinese people,
Dec 18, 2008 Nicolebroadwater rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I have read several books by Anchee Min and this by far is the worst. I enjoyed all of her other books so I kept reading this book thinking it would get better yet it never did. She switches from third person to first person throughout the book and it becomes confusing. In addition, you never get into the character. This book is touted at making the "white bone demon" seem more human but it does not do this. Instead, you are left hating the so called heroine of the book and wondering if it will ...more
Apr 07, 2009 Terry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reduced the history of Chinese communism to petty personal quests for influence and the affection of a tyrant. Made me want to learn more about the era.
Oct 08, 2015 Louise rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: china-fic-lit
It's hard to imagine more complex subject matter. Anchee Min deserves credit for her efforts. Using the first and third person she tells the story from what may be Jaing Qing's point of view. The third person is also used to give background and historical perspective.

Min fashions not a cold hard Jaing Qing, but one who showers all her affection on her husband to the detriment of her daughter and country. She has ambition, drive and a staunchly feminist streak.

The book is strong in portraying her
Aug 04, 2009 Shelly rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really like Anchee Min and was excited to read this book. However, i couldn't even get half way through.

The style of writing was very dry and at times confusing, as it kept switching from 3rd person to 1st person and back. I did keep reading a while after I lost interest because I thought it would get better, but the characters were so distant and flat that I really couldn't connect with them. I'm the type of person who likes to connect with the characters or at least the idea that the author
Alle( Queen of Procrastination)
Basically, it's a love-hate relationship with this book.

From what I can remember, Madame Mao, the main character, has different names that symbolize her different "lives". She experiences pain ( especially when she has her feet lotus wrapped and constantly gets rejected for aspiring to be an actress), sacrifice, violence, sex, and heartbreak--as well as revenge against all the people ( and asshole men) who had double crossed her or broken up with her…Although most people may think of her as an
Mar 17, 2009 Sara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a beautifully written book, the style is very poetic. The story pulls you into the build-up to and the events of the communist revolution in China as experienced by Madame Mao, most infamously known as a member of the Gang of Four. While it is historial fiction, I felt that it was written in such a way that the history and the fiction were fairly easy to distinguish. I think it does what historical fiction does at its best: describes an era in a way in which facts alone cannot.
Jul 11, 2008 Alyssa rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I read Anchee Min's Red Azalea before reading this one and I enjoyed Red Azalea SO much more than Madame Mao. In fact, I disliked her writing style in Madame Mao so much that I didn't even finish it. I felt bad because I liked Azalea so much that I really wanted to like this one, but I just couldn't do it. It bugged me that she went back and forth from first person to third person and I just found myself not really caring... :(
Jen Johnson
Jun 04, 2013 Jen Johnson rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookclub


I remember when I said 'meh'


She said 'meh'
This book incorporates some of Mao's writings and poems which I found appropriate. I enjoyed reading the book but found some difficulty because of many characters involved. I found Madame's Mao life very colorful starting from her family background, career as an actress and her role as Chairman Mao's wife.

Some interesting points mentioned about Mao were having many concubines (most of which were actresses) for longevity but his health dwindled maybe because of poor diet and old age. I was a lit
Dec 13, 2012 Gianna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: asian
Sure, I knew about the Cultural Revolution, but I never wondered about Mao’s personal life or about the personal life of Madame Mao. Drawing on actual historical figures and events, Anchee Min creates a compelling fictionalized portrait of Mao’s forth wife, the woman known as the “white-boned demon” even when she was alive. We see the young, spirited girl struggling first to survive and then to establish herself as an actress. We can even sympathize with her. Anchee Min, who was an actor herself ...more
Feb 23, 2008 Diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although I liked much about this book, I also found it very disturbing and even frightening. The fact that I read it while I had a serious case of the flu and probably a high temperature might have influenced my reaction. The book is a fictionalized account of the rise of an actress, the girlchild of a last concubine, to the role of the powerful Madame Mao in China. I use the word "role" purposively since this girl Lan Ping (she changes her name 4 times so it is hard to identify her by name) liv ...more
Oct 23, 2008 Pamela rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: china
I was fascinated reading this fictional account of the life of Jiang Qing, one of the most hated women of the 20th century. Called the White Boned Demon by many, she has born the brunt of blame for the Cultural Revolution and other evils. Anchee Min's book takes a step into the heart and soul and humanizes this woman seen as many to be the epitome of evil. The author does not excuse her actions, but does help explain them. Having read a good bit about Mao himself and about the last 75 years of C ...more
Silvia Iskandar
Mar 29, 2012 Silvia Iskandar rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Got lost in its poetic prose. The way Min describes things is genuine and wonderful. She described the sunset horizon as that of watermelon, green grass, topped with orange and bright red sky; described the heroine's state as raddish (couldn't remember the vegetable exactly) pickled in sorrow...wish I had taken down notes.

It could have been a boring biography with all the details, but Anchee Min weaved gems in her story and presented us with a beautiful and sad story.

Love it, love it, love it.
A very involved narrative of Madame Mao, and how she evolved from a beautiful young actress in Shanghai into Mao's mistress and then wife. Her love for acting stays with her until death and presents itself in her inner thoughts and political achievements. At the end she is a bitter old woman, made that way by her constant attempts to win Mao's love. Mao's feelings about her fluctuate, and he toys with her emotions so much that she becomes paranoid, mean-spirited, and vindictive. The story makes ...more
Kavita Ramesh
Oct 10, 2015 Kavita Ramesh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am surprised so many people gave this book one star. I guess if you go in expecting a fact-based, hard-hitting historical novel, you would be disappointed. This reads like fiction (most of it probably is!), and I enjoyed that. Plus, I adore Anchee Min. I've read almost everything she has written, because I like her simple but eloquent style of writing. I sometimes forget characters, plots and even entire stories a few years after having read them. However, her stories stay with me (much like A ...more
Jacqueline Williams
I liked the way the book was written, I got lost in the story.
However, it has left me wanting more history and facts - I feel I only got a slice of the relationship in the Maoist messy pie!
Dec 18, 2014 Jenny rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gave-up-on
As I understand it, Min's objective in both of these books was to portray famous Chinese females-- Empress Orchid and Madame Mao-- as the people they were, rather than the demons they're imagined to be. It's historical fiction. It's based on fact. But it's so much better with filled-in details.

Unfortunately, my elation at the purchase of Becoming Madame Mao is fast ebbing. The book is written with an uncomforable cadence in which narration is changed from first person to third person without any
May 05, 2012 Mmars rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a richly imagined telling of Madame Mao. I think I enjoyed it more for the insight on what it must have been like to be married to, and dominated by, The Chairman. I have a penchant for stories about women who live subverted lives and do everything in their power to survive under the circumstances. Granted, I often can't agree with their choices and actions, but I am fascinated with the ingenious ways they find to survive. And, sadly, this is history folks.
Mar 14, 2015 Ashley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Maybe more like 3.5. This was a tough one to rate because Anchee Min makes some stylistic choices that are intriguing, but that I was never quite sure what to do with. She has the protagonist cycle through names as she goes through life until she becomes Madame Mao, which is in keeping with her actress's approach to life as playing a role. What throws me for a loop is the way that Min shifts from first-person to third-person POV, sometimes within the same paragraph. It didn't make the story too ...more
Anna Denney
This was a good book to read because I learned a lot about Chinese history and Maoism. I respected, felt sorry for and despised Madame Mao by the end of this book. It wasn't one of my favorites, but I still couldn't put it down and would recommend it if you want to learn about modern Chinese history.

I led discussion on this book for my book club. Below is the outline we used for our chat.

Becoming Madame Mao
by Anchee Min

Questions for Discussion:
1) Anchee Min described Madame Mao as " early
Stefania Ion
Mai citisem de Anchee Min Imparateasa Orhidee si ma asteptam cumva la acelasi fir narativ continuu presarat cu notele istoriei vremurilor respective. Insa Cum am devenit doamna Mao e diferita (desi sunt descrise multe din palatele din Orasul Interzis prezente si in Imparateasa Orhidee) si imi dau seama acum dupa ce am terminat-o ca nici nu avea cum sa nu fie asa. Vorbim de alte vremuri si desi cruzimea in istorie a existat dintotdeauna pe cea contemporana o resimtim altfel iar cand seamana si cu ...more
Sep 21, 2015 Rusty rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
This is the story of a woman whose warped personality and ambition is stymied at times but, nevertheless, pushes her to the top of the political pyramid when she marries Chairman Mao. The author gives us Madame Mao's words, layered with her own comments about what is true and what is not. Madame Mao is vindictive, unforgiving for the most part, but loves Chairman Mao most of the time. I'm not sure I understood this woman and I certainly disliked her. She is insecure unless she is in control of w ...more
Sara Murphy
Jul 11, 2014 Sara Murphy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was feverish and passionate in style. It had an urgency and anxiety to it because Anchee Min's writing style is unique and like nothing I have ever seen. At first, I did not adjust well to her technique but as I read on, it became more clear.
Throughout the book, I could not help but loathe the main character for her transparency and lack of concern for the welfare of those around her. It certainly opens up this time in history, making it tangible and accessible to those who cannot fat
Mar 19, 2016 Noora rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Anchee Min writes beautifully!
Deanne Harvey
Might have enjoyed this more if I knew a bit more about China's history, but now I know more than I did before...
Apr 21, 2011 Christine rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I found this a very difficult book to read becausing of the constantly changing Point of View. I couldn't get by this artifical contrivance by the author and did not read more than 2 chapters before giving up.
Feb 05, 2015 Katherine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book that has been sitting around my house for a long time which I finally picked up and read. It is absorbing, interestingly written and sobering. The last because if this "biography" is grounded in reality the Chinese people were put through hell principally because Mao was an ego maniac whose mind me came increasingly scrambled in later years and Madame Mao craved Mao's love, and power, to the extend that she was completely ruthless. Of course, this makes you wonder how many other politicia ...more
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Anchee Min was born in Shanghai in 1957. At seventeen she was sent to a labor collective, where a talent scout for Madame Mao's Shanghai Film Studio recruited her to work as a movie actress. She moved to the United States in 1984. Her first memoir, Red Azalea, was an international bestseller, published in twenty countries. She has since published six novels, including Pearl of China and the forthc ...more
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