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Becoming Madame Mao

3.54 of 5 stars 3.54  ·  rating details  ·  3,059 ratings  ·  283 reviews
This is an evocation of the woman who married Chairman Mao and fought to succeed him. The unwanted daughter of a concubine, she refused to have her feet bound, ran away to join an opera troupe and eventually met Mao Zedong in the mountains of Yenan.
Paperback, 306 pages
Published 2001 by Allison & Busby (first published 2000)
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Sep 14, 2011 Mariel rated it 1 of 5 stars
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
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,
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
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.
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
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
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.
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... :(
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
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
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
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
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
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
I've been trying to read Jung Chang's Mao recently (it's over 900 pages), and I took a break to read this book. It was definitely a simpler way to get the gist of the story of Mao without all the political details, which I liked. I also liked how the book made smooth switches between first person and third person—I would have thought it would be too confusing to do it that way, but it worked. However, I never felt like I got a good feel for who Jiang Ching really was and what her motivations wer ...more
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.
J.M. Slowik
Arduous. This is a colorful 'character study,' which casts Madame Mao Jiang Ching as the lead actor in her own life. It's compelling, for a while, and the author can spring a memorable, uniquely powerful sentence on you here and there. But her stylistic choice to switch perspectives, 1st-person to 3rd-person, often several times on the same page, made it needlessly choppy, difficult to read. Some authors manage that choice better, with more control (see Rachel Carson). Going without quotation ma ...more
Sara Murphy
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
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.
Jen Johnson


I remember when I said 'meh'


She said 'meh'
Excellent historical fiction.
Anne Fischer
I had found this book on my bookshelf having purchased it shortly after it hit the bookstores.
After returning from a trip to China last spring,
I had become intrigued with the personality of Madame Mao and the part she played in China's Cultural revolution.
Well, I pulled the book from its shelf and immediately was absorbed in its pages. I learned Madam Mao was a beautiful, intelligent, and talented actress who was also an ambitious, cunning, cruel and backstabbing personality. This book paints he
Paperback version: 309 pages
Genre: Historical, Asian, Chinese.
Rating: 1 *


Set in early days of China, post Opium war where China becomes subject to Communist rule.


Only made it 30 odd pages in before I had to give up on this one.

It seems I've not come across anything but bad Chinese fiction recently, after having abandoned 'Shanghai Girls' for being another poor Chinese book.

Sad really because my usual favourite authors' are writing these books!

Anyway I just couldn't get into this.
Lezlee Hays
I just really can't give this more than 2 stars. It took me AGES to finish this book. First off, it's very weird to read a book that vacillates between third and first person every other paragraph. It's very odd and not a particularly engaging way to read because you constantly have the feeling that you've misread something. Second, though I give the book credit for informing me a little better on the history of communism in China, I don't feel like I understand Madame Mao any better than I did ...more
LonewolfMX Luna
Aug 12, 2010 LonewolfMX Luna rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those interested in the history of China, Jiang Qing, & Mao Tze Tung
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 31, 2008 Jodi rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: historical fiction fans of China
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 09, 2008 Elizabeth rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: historical fiction junkies
Recommended to Elizabeth by: Chinese lit
This story is amazing. Min's Madame Mao comes across as somewhat Eva Perone, somewhat Anne Boleyn, and completely intriguing. This book takes the reader through her youth and ascent into power, the terror involved in holding it, and the fateful descent from power as the tide turns against her. Although these years were spent alongside Mao, Min chronicles how different the experience was for her, as his wife, and how uncertain her future was at all times.

Min carefully and imaginatively brings li
Simply remarkable.
Anchee Min displays the character of Jiang Ching in such vivid manner!
Many may think the style of Min's writing is confusing, as she uses first person and then third person. I, on the other hand, find this writing style creative and engaging. It's carefree and let's me understand more of the personality of Madame Mao. Each character has their own structure and Min has let you understand the characters through their traits and actions.
As a 14 year old high schooler, I did firs
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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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