Book Review Wild Swans

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Book Review
Author: Jung Chang
Title: Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China
Publication: Simon and Schuster, London, 1991

1. Main Thesis
In Wild Swans, Jung Chang describes the life of three generations of woman in her family. Beginning in the year 1909 and ending in present time, it gives an insight into almost eighty years of the cultural history of China. Jung Chang has said in a interview that her intention in writing Wild Swans was to show how the Chinese people, and in particular the women in her family, "fought tenaciously and courageously against impossible odds." The book is a testimony to the strength and determination of her grandmother, her mother, and herself and their resourcefulness in recreating themselves during suffering, humiliation and disillusionment. She interweaves personal and historical stories fluently and the stories of these women and their families act as a lens through which you gain insight into the turbulent history of twentieth century China. The most important themes in this book are: love of family, loyalty and self-sacrifice 2. Chapter Summaries

The book starts by relating the biography of Chang's grandmother, Yu-fang. After the birth of Chang’s mother, De-hong, the book moves to her story. After the birth of the Jung Chang, the focus of the book now shifts again to cover Jung's own autobiography. Chapter 1:

The father of Yu-fang, was Yang Ru-shan, born in 1894 as the only son. It was his duty to produce heirs to continue the family name. One a year after he married he got a daughter, Yu-fang. Political unrest caused problems for many in China over the next years. He arranges that a powerful warlord general, Xue Zhi-heng takes Yu-Fang as his concubine at age fifteen. The general stays only a few days after the traditional marriage and then leaves, not returning for six years. During his next brief visit, Yu-Fang becomes pregnant. The general's household is run by his legal wife and the head concubines. The wife immediately lays claim to Yu-Fang's daughter, who the general named Bao Qin. Yu-Fang kidnaps her daughter and escapes from the household. She lies, saying that the child died during their trip. When the general dies, Yu-Fang discovers that one of his final actions was to release her from her duties as his concubine. Chapter 2:

Soon after, Dr. Xia, a matured doctor of Manchurian ancestry, falls in love with Jung’s grandmother and the feelings could be felt the same from Jung Chang’s grandmother as well. The doctor proposes and grandmother says yes. Although not thrilled with the marriage, Jung Chang’s grandmother’s father agrees to the marriage and sends her daughter off with a traditional wedding. When Dr. Xia’s three sons, their wives, and grandchildren hear about the marriage, they're extremely angry. The grandmother receives quite a bit of harassment from the family and the eldest son even commits suicide, nevertheless the wedding still continues. He accepts Yu-Fang's daughter, who he renames "De-hong", meaning "virtue" and "wild swan". Chapter 3:

China is living under Japanese rule. After moving to a new province of Manchuria, Jung Chang’s grandmother, now living with Dr. Xia, begins to realize how terrible life is under the Japanese. The Japanese rulers are very cruel. The people are only allowed to eat acorn meal and sorghum, as the Second World War drags on, fewer rations and supplies are given to the people in Manchuria as Japan is losing the war. Finally, an American B-52 bomber flies overhead and she realizes that Japan had indeed lost the war. As Japan’s last officers commit suicide or run away, the town is in chaos just like the rest of Manchuria. Chapter 4:

The Japanese are replaced by Soviets who were almost as bad. They pillaged and raped, taking what they wanted and dismantling entire factories. However, they soon leave and the Kuomintang arrives in shining uniforms and rifles. The Kuomintang turns out to be oppressive and ineffective at keeping...
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