Trina's Reviews > Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China

Wild Swans by Jung Chang
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Feb 19, 08

Recommended to Trina by: My sister who was living in Beijing
Recommended for: anyone--particularly someone planning a visit to China
Read in January, 2008

We bought this book before a trip to Beijing in 2005, but Amazon was particularly slow with their delivery and it arrived just a couple of days before our departure. My husband began reading the book on the plane (and even though the book is banned in China, our bags weren't searched so our copy made it into the country without any problem), but didn't finish it until well after we'd returned home. At that point, my interest had waned a bit. In addition, I just don't like to read "sad" books, and my husband had told me some of the more tragic events in the book, so I chose not to read it.

When Wild Swans was chosen as our book group book (by a woman who is somewhat of a Chinese history scholar), I began reading with reluctance. The first half of the book took me a very long time to read, but the second half, I had a hard time putting down. I wondered if I had become hardened to all of the sorrow and suffering, but I think the second half was more compelling because it was when the author began telling her story, from her point of view, and it was easier to put myself into the story (and thus, more heartbreaking).

The writing is first-rate, and I appreciate the epilogue and the introduction to the 2003 edition (which I recommend reading AFTER you've read the book) which chronicle some of the author's difficulties in initally facing her past in China. It is a courageous book, with honest and emotional portrayals of a time in history that is still so little understood by the Western world. I, for one, am grateful to Jung Chang for sharing her family's stories.

I love the pictures of the author and her family that are included in the 2003 edition. I spent the first part of the book frustrated that the edition didn't include a map of China, only to discover that there is a great map in the BACK of the book. These extras, along with the timeline and family tree, help the non-Chinese reader keep track of names and places.

I wish I had been able to read the book before going to China. I think it would have given me a more acurate lense through which to see people and places. But, late is better than never, and I'm so glad to have read the book now.
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Deborah Boutland My favourite! Given to tourist returning to China who were too afraid (2013)to re-enter the country with it!


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