Monday, June 23, 2014

Review of Wild Swans


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Thanks to Origi!!

Now the review..

This is the second time I've read Wild Swans by Jung Chang. The first time I've read it I was 16 and it had been recommended by my English teacher. It was a wonderful novel then, but now, almost ten years later, I figured it was time for a reread. 

I see the novel differently now, than I did then. Then I was mostly taken by the struggle the women went through in order to survive, to not be prosecuted. Now I had more eye for their surrounding. 

The story is autobiographical, telling the history of the writer, her mother and her grandmother. 
Her grandmother being brought up in a traditional China, with the absurd rules and ancient traditions its inhabitants had to live by in order to gain wealth and prestige. The conditions were almost downright barbaric for women and she lived the life of a concubine. 
Against all odds, when her husband died, she found a new love in another man who, again not according to tradition, made her his wife and gave her the life she deserved. She did already have a child. 

That child was the Chang's mother. She grew up during the reign of terror by the Kwomingtan, after Japan got defeated and when in her teens, she began working voluntary and in secret for the communist party, which later overthrew the Kwomingtan. During these events she met her husband and they both were valuable assets of the communist party. 
She tells the story of how difficult it was for her to become a full member of the party. Always being under suspicion because her father had been a warlord, and because a lot of her friends during her teens had had connections with the Kwomingtan. She endured The Great Leap Forward, initiated by Mao, to try and be better then western economies, ultimately ending in a catastrophical famine that had cost the lives of millions of chinese. During this time she was in and out of custody, depending on the current propaganda campaign. She held her ground, because if she were to falter, her kids would be punished too. 

Chang was born during this time. She never knew how difficult it had been for her parents to survive and to be free. 
When she started high school, Mao began his indoctrination of the youth, supported by the government and the entire party. Normal classes were quickly abandoned in order to spend the time honouring Mao. 
Mao consequently ushered in the Cultural revolution and was supported by millions of chinese teens and students, resulting in one of the biggest manhunts and destruction of ancient treasures, China had seen. This revolution would last 10 years, in which people with a degree or the will to learn, were being cast out, depicted upon and discriminated.

It's fluently written, and is as wonderful a novel, as it is a history text book. 
The cultural revolution, Mao, the uprising of communism after WW2, alongsided with a story of a three women, the one who wrote the book, her mother and her grandmother, how even with only a generation difference, they all grew up in a very different China.

I'm giving this novel 9,5 out of 10.