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Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China
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Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China

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Betty (olderthan18) | 617 comments I''ve opened a thread for someone who is reading early and who has something to write about Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang.


Anne (On semi-hiatus) (reachannereach) POSSIBLE SPOILER
Yes, it's amazing to read what women had to put up with in China. It also amazes me what the communists put people through. It's very educational - "thought control" doesn't just exist in science fiction.


Anne (On semi-hiatus) (reachannereach) Judy wrote: "I'm to the point where the Communists just took over, so I'm sure the next chapter or so that will come up. I thought the Japanese brainwashing was interesting. Its interesting how all the systems ..."

Yes, sad to say, that's so true. Human lives are expendable. I won't say more for now.


Betty (olderthan18) | 617 comments Judy and Anne, while you're in the midst of the women's lives, I'm reading your insights.


message 5: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue | 44 comments I just started reading last night and read the first chapter. It amazes me how feudal and disorganized China was well into the 20th century. And the author's great grandmother---with no name.

As I was reading I was beginning to see how this huge country with a dispersed and largely uneducated population, was ripe pickings for any totalitarian regime.

I think this book is going to take a while but it will be worth it.

Addendum: when I opened the book I found a review I had cut out of Newsweek when the book was released in 1991. I guess I've had the book on my shelf for about that long. Do I get a medal or something?


Anne (On semi-hiatus) (reachannereach) I'll give you a medal, but you have to give me one as well. I had a copy since 1991. Don't know what happened to it, but I bought another copy at least 5 years ago (another BC sale). I'm glad to finally be reading it. It's worth the time and effort.


message 7: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue | 44 comments I think Goodreads should give us each one!

I agree re the merits of the book. I can see them even after 1 chapter. I'm glad I took my fun break (and I will do more) to offset the long and more serious books.


message 8: by Sue (last edited Mar 09, 2012 09:35PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue | 44 comments Judy wrote: "Re: the ripe for picking aspect, Sue, sometime read The Rape of Nanking or historical fiction/non-fiction accounts for that time period.Herbert Hoover's biography for that time period...."

Actually when I said "As I was reading I was beginning to see how this huge country with a dispersed and largely uneducated population, was ripe pickings for any totalitarian regime." I was thinking more of how China was ripe for being taken over internally by a totalitarian government that would completely dominate the people and would structure the country. I was thinking how ripe it was for Communism which presented order on such a massive country, but at a huge cost.

The points you make about ripe for picking by external forces are also true for the same reasons.

I do sometimes wonder (and this is where I guess I need to learn much more) how much of the vast population feels united with the central government even today. From some things I've seen and read, it seems there are still peoples far removed from the mainstream of Chinese life.


message 9: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue | 44 comments I'm really looking forward to watching the progression of events in the book.


message 10: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue | 44 comments I'm going to try to read more this weekend. I haven't read beyond the first chapter yet--been working with some of my other books.


Marieke | 58 comments I couldn't get it from work but I put a hold on it from my public library. There are a bunch of copies in the system so hopefully one makes it to my branch soon for me to pick up. :)

Do I get a medal for being an idiot? I thought this was a new book until today when I saw the catalog record at work.


message 12: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue | 44 comments No medals, just commiseration.


Marieke | 58 comments Awww well I spose that is adequate consolation lol. ;)


Betty (olderthan18) | 617 comments Judy wrote: "Ooo, just saw this thread, Asmah. My first impressionis that its an excellent history from the Chinese citizens perspective. What an incredible story! I can't imagine what these people lived throug..."

Thanks for your noticing the thread, Judy. I'm planning to begin on Wednesday night the 14th or Thursday morning the 15th.


Betty (olderthan18) | 617 comments Anne wrote: "POSSIBLE SPOILER
Yes, it's amazing to read what women had to put up with in China. It also amazes me what the communists put people through. It's very educational - "thought control" doesn't jus..."


Anne, I'm positive that Wild Swans will be an eye opener/mind opener to think about how life was lived in China during those years.


Betty (olderthan18) | 617 comments Sue wrote: "I just started reading last night and read the first chapter. It amazes me how feudal and disorganized China was well into the 20th century. And the author's great grandmother---with no name.

As I..."


Sue, to have this book from its publication (twenty-years)...I don't have this one, but I can probably find at least one I've possessed since then that I'd have to dust. (Ha-ha: it's a reason for The Imprinted Life). I'm impressed that you have THIS one.


Betty (olderthan18) | 617 comments Anne wrote: "I'll give you a medal, but you have to give me one as well. I had a copy since 1991. Don't know what happened to it, but I bought another copy at least 5 years ago (another BC sale). I'm glad t..."

Wow, Anne. And to think I've recently discovered this book. And another one for five years. That's another qualifier. Two medals.


Betty (olderthan18) | 617 comments Judy wrote: "Perhaps it depends on the part of the country. I think the hill folks are more opposed to the style of government and well, the city folks go along because they have to to survive?"

Sue wrote: "Actually when I said "As I was reading I was beginning to see how this huge country with a dispersed and largely uneducated population, was ripe pickings for any totalitarian regime." I was thinking more of how China was ripe for being taken over internall..."

I too think that the wild swans' story will make current Chinese events more meaningful.


Betty (olderthan18) | 617 comments Marieke wrote: "Awww well I spose that is adequate consolation lol. ;)"

That's what friends are for :)


Anne (On semi-hiatus) (reachannereach) Asmah wrote: "Anne wrote: "POSSIBLE SPOILER
Yes, it's amazing to read what women had to put up with in China. It also amazes me what the communists put people through. It's very educational - "thought control..."


It certainly is!


Anne (On semi-hiatus) (reachannereach) Asmah wrote: "Anne wrote: "I'll give you a medal, but you have to give me one as well. I had a copy since 1991. Don't know what happened to it, but I bought another copy at least 5 years ago (another BC sale)..."

Thank you, Asmah!


message 22: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue | 44 comments I've finally returned to reading this again but it will take me some time to catch up with you. Still really like the writing style and the fact that I can learn so much while reading such a good writer.


Marieke | 58 comments Are you guys needing to look things up? i'm just curious. I still haven't heard from my library to know if i'll be getting this any time soon. :(


Anne (On semi-hiatus) (reachannereach) Marieke, do you mean look up things about Chinese history? If so, no. It's all there - all of it!!


message 25: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue | 44 comments Marieke wrote: "Are you guys needing to look things up? i'm just curious. I still haven't heard from my library to know if i'll be getting this any time soon. :("

I hope you're able to get it. Well worth it.


Marieke | 58 comments Anne wrote: "Marieke, do you mean look up things about Chinese history? If so, no. It's all there - all of it!!"

um, yeah, i guess...new stuff/information. and i'm also wondering if any of you have read The Good Earth? i haven't yet, but i'm wondering if it would pair well with this book.


Anne (On semi-hiatus) (reachannereach) I haven't read The Good Earth. but that's a very good idea. I've been meaning to get to it.


message 28: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue | 44 comments Thanks Judy. I haven't read The Good earth either, though I plan to eventually.

I'm really amazed at how the author of Wild Swans seems to present the history so effortlessly in presenting her family's history.


Betty (olderthan18) | 617 comments Anne wrote: "Marieke, do you mean look up things about Chinese history? If so, no. It's all there - all of it!!"

Inside the novel is a family tree, a combined chronology of the family and of history in general, as well as a map of China. I don't find any Notes or Annotations of any kind.


Betty (olderthan18) | 617 comments I recently listened to a BBC interview with Jung Chang.


Betty (olderthan18) | 617 comments Asmah wrote: "I read "The Good Earth" a long time ago. Just a bare-bones reflection fuzzily recalled, the story is about prospering best--humble, hard-work agriculture or cleaner business trading. The end holds ..."

I've been looking over highlights of The Good Earth to see whether that memory I'd recalled of the story is accurate. The answer is yes and no-- it's about farmers and ambition to prosper but it's also about how women were treated in the 1930s, how worked-for prosperity and increase can arrive with mixed virtue, and how the next generation sees those results.


Marieke | 58 comments The library just emailed me that my copy of Wild Swans is ready for pickup! Yay!


Betty (olderthan18) | 617 comments Marieke wrote: "The library just emailed me that my copy of Wild Swans is ready for pickup! Yay!"

I knew it would come with so many copies in circulation! Maybe by tomorrow I can post some progress.


Marieke | 58 comments i will be picking it up on Saturday but i doubt i'll be able to begin reading it this weekend. i need to read some quick books after i finish Agaat (which will be shortly) and before beginning something like this or even My Name is Red. (what have i gotten myself into?!)


Betty (olderthan18) | 617 comments Judy wrote: "1930's eh? It seemed older than what Jung Chang is describing here but that probably is because TGE took place in the country where they didn't have the city conveniences and the old ways still were adhered to. I remember it as being old-time China.
..."


You're right, Judy. The early twentieth century, time 1890s-1930s is more accurate for the setting of The Good Earth, which Buck published during the 1930s. That time frame was before the Communist Party and Mao Zedong who formed The People's Republic of China in 1949. By chapter 7 out of 28 in Wild Swans the story is in 1949-50. That event is also noted in the memoir's Chronology.


message 36: by Sue (last edited Mar 15, 2012 09:27PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue | 44 comments Marieke wrote: "i will be picking it up on Saturday but i doubt i'll be able to begin reading it this weekend. i need to read some quick books after i finish Agaat (which will be shortly) and before beginning some..."

I know how you feel Marieke, though I finished Agaat a while ago so I don't have that added "weight". Good to take a break. I've been doing that too (migraine reading). Hopefully the improved weather that's coming this weekend will end the days of headaches and the reading can increase again.

I think you'll find that Wild swans is actually easier reading that Agaat even though it is dense with history. As for My Name is Red, I haven't opened that yet!!


Marieke | 58 comments you guys might think i'm crazy but i'm actually really loving Agaat. i think it's amazing. but i'll also be somewhat relieved when i've finished (hopefully tomorrow).

i tried to read My Name is Red once and totally failed. so, we'll see.

one of my break books is going to be The Autobiography of Foudini M. Cat. 8)

anyway, even if i don't start Wild Swans immediately, i'm pretty excited about looking at the maps and whatnot.


message 38: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue | 44 comments Marieke wrote: "you guys might think i'm crazy but i'm actually really loving Agaat. i think it's amazing. but i'll also be somewhat relieved when i've finished (hopefully tomorrow).

i tried to read My Name is Re..."


I'm looking forward to you review of Agaat. Are you going to add to the Agaat thread. I really enjoyed the book too especially after the half way point.

That looks like a good break book, totally "other".


Betty (olderthan18) | 617 comments Good news. I am hopin' we'll all be in the Wild Swans at some page of it whether beginning or ending. My "Botchan" is finished, so I'm joining you all with the story of "Wild Swans".


Marieke | 58 comments Sue, yes, I plan to add to the Agaat discussion in the Africa group. I just have to find some time to focus and write something at least a little coherent. :S

So I just got back from the library with my copy of Wild Swans. I am so impulsive, I can't just go to the holds shelf and get my book. I have to look at all the stuff on the new arrivals shelf and come home with an extra two books. This would not be a big deal, except I still have three unread books from the last time I went to get a book that was on hold for me. And one that I brought home today is a 14-day/no renewal loan. Oh my.

Anyway, lunch eaten: time to look at maps and such.


message 41: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue | 44 comments Oh Marieke I know what you mean. The library is just full of wonderful temptation.


Betty (olderthan18) | 617 comments Read the first 115 pages of "Wild Swans" having got caught up in the historical, literary, cultural story that includes changing societal attitudes about women's beauty, skills, independence, etc. A better life for women along with her mother's cousin Hu's death are the reasons the author's mother became a Communist. A lot is happening; people come and go; there's injustice and intrigue aplenty. The introduction says, Chang's motive was "to write about how the Chinese really felt."

Now the story is also onstage, just finished running in Feb/Mar at A.R.T. Boston and just about to begin running in Apr/May at World Stages London.


message 43: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue | 44 comments I didn't know about the Boston production.
Asmah, we're in about the same place. I've just passed the spot you mention and have reached where we meet the author's father.


Betty (olderthan18) | 617 comments There's an eight-minute video segment with footage from the theater and with interviews about the author, the book, and the play.


Betty (olderthan18) | 617 comments Anne and Judy, congratulations on your reading the whole of this memoir. An encouraging word for readers closer to the beginning--it presents some unfamiliar ideas.

Sue, I also stopped where Chang's mother is about the meet Comrade Wang, who will be Chang's father. I'm lingering every hundred pages or so to write up a comment(s) and notes.

Once her mother and father marry, Chang honestly writes about their tense relationship due to her father's extraordinary diligence to uphold the objectivity of Party ideals. I admired their youthful enthusiasm to make a juster, more equal, kinder society. The Party then evolves beyond its original mission, seeking to purify itself from within, using people's surveillance to burrow into everyone's life to assess the likelihood of comrades with past, non-Communist associations being 'snakes'. It keeps detailed records, especially on detainees, and requires personal criticism of others and of oneself. Chang's parents sacrifice independent thought and action in the hope of a better future. However, the Party moves away from its humanitarian utopia, finely tuning regimentation, criticizing initiative, and curtailing free speech and writing.

Now, Chang's father hurriedly moves the family to Chengdu to evade the possibility that Mrs Ting, Chang's mother's 'nice' boss, will take vengeance on Chang's father by accusing Chang's mother.


message 46: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue | 44 comments I'm a bit behind you Asmah but have seen Wang's strict adherence to party doctrine, even as the Party begins its shift into the the invasion of every private moment of the members' lives and as it encourages individual citizens spying on each other. Of course the result is to escalate petty rivalries and jealousies. It's really rather amazing how quickly everything went so bad.


message 47: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue | 44 comments Yes, Mao and his associates were quite astute in perceiving how to take such control...and maintain it through this system of group assessment and criticism, self flagellation, and occasional rewards. The early converts (such as Wang/Chang) were totally won over and the later joiners (Mother) were forced to accede even if they didn't totally agree, partly to avoid being shunned and partly out of a lingering self-doubt about themselves.


Betty (olderthan18) | 617 comments The communists who won the civil war intended to restructure the entire web of Chinese society, breaking with the traditional past. Such a movement initially attracted younger, idealistic, activist people, who could imagine working together to perfect social equality, land reform, etc and who could win over others. What they did not foresee and what this book expresses, as Sue and Judy say above about the tactics of group control over its members, is that they couldn't restart with a tabula rasa as members, who had psychologically grown up under the older system, sometimes had little in common with the exception of prioritizing the party before family and self, of making sure everyone else did as well, and of conforming to directives as to how society's members were to be organized. To tell the truth, those graded privileges, perks, subsidies, especially those pertaining to the most private affairs, seem light-years away from the typical utopian. But, I'm sure Chang's mother and Chang herself were disaffected by other circumstances as well.


message 49: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue | 44 comments The use of social spy and gossip networks inevitably brings out the worst in people and society and even Chang's father ultimately began to see this. I' don't know how far along you are Asmah. Have you reached the point where they need to leave Yibin quickly?


Betty (olderthan18) | 617 comments Yes, Sue. Did the family leave Yibin to protect themselves from Mrs. Ting's possibly accusing Chang's mother? If so, I did. Finished the block of Chapters 11-16 yesterday and today. One episode is how everybody is freely encouraged to express their comments so that the "rightists" in the Party can be unwittingly uncovered. Another one is how the diversion of total effort into steel production led to famine even in the Sichuan province, once known as The Granary for its bounty. Something that Judy noted above about human psychology is exemplified on p228. Mao
was...a maestro at "divide and rule," and at manipulating men's inclination to throw others to the wolves.
That attitude also applied to the officials around him, but they were reviving the economy and Deng was liberalizing cultural expression. Afterwards, Mao brought together loyal supporters, took command of the media to create the personality cult of Mao through indoctrination, and began The Cultural Revolution, a misnomer to eliminate anything traditional, old, bourgeois, peaceful, or literary except socialist tracts.


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