John's Reviews > Mao: The Unknown Story

Mao by Jung Chang
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's review
Aug 06, 11

Clearly written to puncture the hundreds of fabricated details of Mao's rise and reign, the biography too often has the feel of a vendetta. The horror of Mao's leadership - sadistic, cruel, sickening...the modifiers could be endless - should shock us all, and the Chang and Halliday have done a remarkable service in producing this incredibly detailed book based on hundreds of interviews and source texts. Scholars will come back to their research again and again and again. I do feel, though, that the book is missing something key. It fails to establish the broader context of China as a whole that enabled the Communists to come into power and enact policies such as the Anti-Rightest Campaign and Cultural Revolution. Chang's other book, Wild Swans, does this brilliantly, as she tells the story of how her mother was caught up in the zeitgeist of mid-twentieth century China. This biography, though, glosses the national mood, the cultural changes, and the history of prior rulers. While I admire the authors' work, I just wished it had been a notch better.

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