Jung Chang was born in Yibin, Sichuan Province, China, in 1952. She was briefly a Red Guard at the age of fourteen, and then a peasant, a 'barefoot doctor', a steelworker and an electrician. She came to Britain in 1978, and in 1982 became the first person from the People's Republic of China to receive a doctorate from a British university. She lives in London.
Bursting with drama, heartbreak and horror, this extraordinary family portrait mirrors China's century of turbulence. Chang's grandmother, Yu-fang, had her feet bound at age two and in 1924 was sold as a concubine to Beijing's police chief. Yu-fang escaped slavery in a brothel by fleeing her ``husband'' with her infant daughter, Bao Qin, Chang's mother-to-be. Growing up during Japan's brutal occupation, free-spirited Bao Qin chose the man she would marry, a Communist Party official slavishly devoted to the revolution. In 1949, while he drove 1000 miles in a jeep to the southwestern province where they would do Mao's spadework, Bao Qin walked alongside the vehicle, sick and pregnant (she lost the child). Chang, born in 1952, saw her mother put into a detention camp in the Cultural Revolution and later ``rehabilitated.'' Her father was denounced and publicly humiliated; his mind snapped, and he died a broken man in 1975. Working as a ``barefoot doctor'' with no training, Chang saw the oppressive, inhuman side of communism. She left China in 1978 and is now director of Chinese studies at London University. Her meticulous, transparent prose radiates an inner strength. Photos. BOMC alternate. (Sept.)
'It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of this book' Mary Wesley 'Everything about Wild Swans is extraordinary. It arouses all the emotions, such as pity and terror, that great tragedy is supposed to evoke, and also a complex mixture of admiration, despair and delight at seeing a luminous intelligence directed at the heart of darkness' Minette Marrin, Sunday Telegraph 'Immensely moving and unsettling; an unforgettable portrait of the brain-death of a nation' J.G. Ballard, Sunday Times 'Wild Swans made me feel like a five-year-old. This is a family memoir that has the breadth of the most enduring social history' Martin Amis, Independent on Sunday 'There has never been a book like this' Edward Behr, Los Angeles Times
An excellent work about China as seen through the eyes of women of three different generations: the author, who left China in 1978; her mother, a revolutionary who married one of Mao's soldiers; and her grandmother, concubine to a warlord. Although aimed at the general reader, parts of this will be rewarding for specialists, especially those interested in Chinese social history during the decades leading up to the Communist revolution. For example, during the war period, the author's family was usually ``behind the lines'' (of the Japanese, then of the Communists), about which little has been written in English. Later parts of the book would be valuable to anyone especially interested in Sichuan province. Less ``new'' are the general events of 1949-78, including the horrors of the Cultural Revolution. Particularly well portrayed are the efforts of the Communists to change the Chinese social system. An often fascinating narrative, though one often yearns for a map and family tree. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/15/91.-- James D. Seymour, Columbia Univ.