Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Becoming Madame Mao” as Want to Read:
Becoming Madame Mao
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Becoming Madame Mao

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  4,571 ratings  ·  387 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 June 1st 2000)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Becoming Madame Mao, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Becoming Madame Mao

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.56  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,571 ratings  ·  387 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Becoming Madame Mao
Aug 07, 2011 rated it did not like it
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
Sep 02, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Nov 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
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,
Nov 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: china, 2017
Part of my Fall 2017 Best Of Chinese Literature project; more here, and a cool list of books here.

Crafty and ruthless Madame Mao bent the best artists of her generation to creating propaganda musicals during China's Cultural Revolution. The best of them - the so-called "Eight Model Works" - were extravagant operas that are still, with some degree of camp and irony, loved today. Artists gonna art, and the music was good. Apparently. I don't love musicals myself, on account of how they're dumb.

Dec 18, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
May 31, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: bookclub


I remember when I said 'meh'


She said 'meh'
Evelina | AvalinahsBooks
This was a tough read, and not for just the contents alone. It's written in an odd way, where every other paragraph alternates between third person and first person. It was really odd to keep switching and I only got used to it by the end. I also remember that half the book just felt like a chore, despite the contents being interesting. That may also be the translation at fault though.

One thing I was surprised about though, was that I expected the book to have a lot of horrors and maybe even gor
Feb 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
I love this author normally but this book was blah. The first half was fantastic. Around 70% it lost me. I guess the history of Chairman Mao and communism wasn't as interesting as it sounded. Although, Madam Mao was an interesting historical figure.
Dec 29, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Jul 27, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Apr 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 11, 2008 rated it did not like it
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... :(
Mar 17, 2009 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.
Lora Shouse
Apr 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Talk about your drama queens! In this biography of Madame Mao Jiang Ching, Anchee Min tells the story of Mao Tse-tung’s third and last wife. He was her fourth husband (although it seems that she was not actually married to at least one of the men she considered a husband and mention is made of her divorcing only one of the others.

Born the daughter of a concubine, she rebelled at the age of four against having her feet bound and evidently kept rebelling for the rest of her life. After she and her
Dec 11, 2012 rated it liked it
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 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 03, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Sep 16, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, own
I was intrigued by an inside look into the life of Mao through his wife’s eyes, but I was disappointed in the overall narrative. It started slow because it took me a while to get used to the unusual cadence of the writing. The first third is a vicious cycle of our title character (before she become’s Mao’s wife, she goes through several name changes) falling into tumultuously passionate love with various men. It gets a little redundant as those relationships deteriorate, one after another.

When s
Sep 20, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Oct 01, 2011 rated it liked 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
May 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Apr 21, 2011 rated it did not like it
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.
Jun 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Excellent historical fiction.
Deanne Harvey
Jan 15, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: in-my-bookcase
Might have enjoyed this more if I knew a bit more about China's history, but now I know more than I did before...
Jacqueline Williams
Jun 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
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!
Aug 29, 2016 rated it liked it
i loved her memoir (red azalea) & her fictional story of a girl growing up during the cultural revolution (wild ginger) -- but the combination of nonfic & fic in this one didn't really work (for me) ...more
LonewolfMX Luna
Jun 27, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  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.
Mar 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
I'd love to see inside the Chinese mind. It seems to be full of imagery and very intense, at least that's what I got from the style of this writing and what people and the narrator relate in the story. Do all Chinese write in this lyrical fashion? I tried to figure out what made it FEEL so FEELY. I wonder if Chinese people speak in such illustrative language, so much simile and metaphor.

This was a fascinating and delightful way to learn what was going on in the world when I was a young girl--I h
Sep 02, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: east-asia, i-own
Wow. Becoming Madame Mao. This book is certainly thought-provoking. It raises many interesting questions and forces much-needed perspective on the reader. No matter who you are, or what you know about China’s recent past, this book is extremely helpful to gain perspective on the “white boned demon”, Mao, China’s leaders and Chinese (and Western) culture, although keep in mind that is historical FICTION. And important note, this is not a review, but a reflection, a reaction to this book.

First co
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Melkein geisha: hurmaava ja hullu Japani
  • The Angry Wife
  • Another Roadside Attraction
  • Portrait of a Marriage
  • Dear Leader: Poet, Spy, Escapee - A Look Inside North Korea
  • Once Is Not Enough
  • The Valley of the Shadow of Death (The Other Side of Through Book 3)
  • Triangles
  • The Tale of Murasaki
  • Loose Lips (Runnymede, #3)
  • Six of One (Runnymede, #1)
  • Wild Ducks Flying Backward
  • Sudden Death
  • Southern Discomfort
  • High Hearts
  • Venus Envy
  • An Only Child and Her Sister: A Memoir
  • Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water
See similar books…
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

Related Articles

Her Favorite Immigrant Stories: Change can be both harrowing and freeing in these picks from the memoirist who left Shanghai for Chicago in The...
10 likes · 2 comments