Jung Chang was one of the first Chinese to be able to study in the West during the 1970’s, when China was finally opening its doors. What lay in China’s past, behind those closed doors, is what is presented in Wild Swans. It is the story of Jung Chang’s life as well as the life of her mother and grandmother, but really it’s about what happened to China during and since World War II.
I have read many, many non-fiction and historical fiction books about China, but the scope and detail of this book, made me truly understand what happened politically as well as socially.
During the days of the Japanese occupation, Jung Chang’s grandmother had been sold as a concubine to a Warlord. Upon his death she was set free and eventually married a kindly old doctor, who adopted Jung Chang’s mother and treated her as his own. The story continues as the Kuomintang fought the Communists and the author’s parents ended up on the winning side. But really, there were no winners for China, as they soon found out. All their ideology ended up supporting was a powerful few, who used ignorance, fear and class hatred to remain in power. Eventually, during the Cultural Revolution, even Jung Chang’s parents (high-ranking Communist officials that they were) became enemies of the state.
This book is so powerful. I found myself being haunted by lines in this book:
It seemed there was no escape from the Communists’ approbation of moral principles and noble sentiments.
I wonder if people realize that the political parties in the United States currently use these same tactics? They do not allow room to discuss policy and it’s possible effects. They are dividing, claiming that love of country is on one side or caring for the poor is on the other. They pit the working class against the corporate world and claim that capitalism is evil.
What this book tells us is that history is important. It tells us that everyone must be allowed a voice, and it especially tells us that we should hold our freedoms dearly.
5 stars (out of 5)
Published in 1991