pinkgal's Reviews > Mao: The Unknown Story

Mao by Jung Chang
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Jul 03, 2007

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bookshelves: no_fiction_here

How do I review a book like this? I don't know, because I have decidedly mixed feelings about Mao myself. Jung Chang wrote the amazing "Wild Swans" biography/autobiography, but her voice there falls far short of the voice here. I'll be honest. It's very, very biased. She presents the work as *factual* when it's not actually quite that factual. Much of her interpretation and statements are based off of things like, "a dear friend of Mao's said..." and yet, the friend is *not* named or referenced. Just that alone made me uneasy.

It was an interesting read, don't get me wrong. I felt it was worth the time I spent on it, but I can't say that Jung did the best she could have. Her biases and hatred for Mao was all-too clear and for any book that claims to be a 'true' story, that makes it wrong in my books. Obviously, others will disagree with me and I know many people who find it a brilliant piece of work. The amount of work Jung put into it is admirable, but I can't say that this didn't bother me.

Overall? I'd say read it and judge for yourself.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Jason (new)

Jason I understand your skepticism, but keep in mind that this isn't exactly ancient history. Attributions could very well lead to real people being put into real danger. Even when the source is out of reach, whether by death or by distance, the present-day leaders of China are not above punishing the families of dissenters.


message 2: by Gisele (new)

Gisele I enjoyed Wild Swans, but felt it was a romanticized version of events. I'm sure your assessment is accurate.


pinkgal Jason wrote: "I understand your skepticism, but keep in mind that this isn't exactly ancient history. Attributions could very well lead to real people being put into real danger. Even when the source is out of r..."

Considering my grandparents fled China to escape the Communists from executing my grandfather, I'm sure I understand that sentiment.

However, if you're going to commit something to historical record, you have to state your sources. You have to have that commitment. The lack of that takes away from the import of this book and in the end, she ends up with the same problem most historians do of a very tumultuous period. Biases are expected; in fact, anyone who claims to be unbiased is probably lying to themselves. But you have to acknowledge those biases or anything you say can only be suspect. I respect Jung, and I find this work fascinating. But in the end, I can never refer to this in serious works.


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