Books are cheaper than heroin, but they DO add up....

Amy, Carrie, Chanin and Sarah buy (and read and review) their own stuff. They've been known to shop around from dealer to dealer looking for the best price. If you're interested in slipping them something to try out, just contact us.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang

If I promised you a story spanning 500+ pages, 60+ years, 3 generations, 4 different regimes, innumerable unpronounceable locations (by Western standards) and countless human suffering (by anyone's standards), wouldn’t your fingers get all tangled up in your race to to order a copy?  I know.  I know.  You missed the question because your eyes glazed over just at the mention of 500+ pages.  Normally, I would, too, but it would have been a shame if I had missed reading Wild Swans for any of the normal reasons I avoid a book.  (It's nonfiction.  It's all about China.  It's depressing. It's not a police procedural or romantic comedy or urban fantasy. Ugh. Yawn. Boo. Hiss, hiss, hiss.)
Yet this tale of three Chinese women--grandmother, mother, daughter--is an engaging story that I am determined to share, to recommend, because despite all the reasons I listed for normally avoiding it, this book actually contains much of what I think makes a good book.  The mystery of another culture is, well, not solved exactly, but explained.  Plenty of evidence is compiled.  Boy meets girl, boy falls for girl, boy wins girl’s heart.  A fantasy, complete with world mythology, is introduced; they call it communism. There are monsters in the fantasy, and at the end, the youngest heroine escapes. 
The book is banned in China, and you won't need to read past the foreword to understand why.  This book is a tribute to the Chinese people and what they have endured, but makes no apologies for the cruelties and oppression of any of the Chinese governments (feudal, Japanese-backed, Kuomintang or Communist).  So read this book.  It will make you think, and it will make you grateful--even if your eyes glaze over at all the unpronounceable names.
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