Over the last few weeks, I have been reading ‘Wild Swans’ by Jung Chang. An autobiography, it follows the lives of the author, her mother and grandmother in China, beginning with her Grandmother becoming a concubine to a Warlord. From there, the story explores life under the Japanese, the Kuomintang, and the rule of Chairman Mao.
From the very first sentence, this book sends you spiralling into a whirlwind of emotion. There are moments that make you smile, moments that make you cry, and moments that are, to me, just terrifying. On the cover of my copy of the book there is the quote: “It is impossible to imagine the importance of this book.” by Mary Wesley. That quote sums it up. Within the pages there are so many levels; it deals with politics and family, violence and peace.
While the political backdrop of the novel is fascinating and terrifying all at once, for me, the most affecting part of ‘Wild Swans’ was when Chang wrote about her family, and the love that bound them. On multiple occasions, you get the sense that it was their connection that kept them going throughout Mao’s reign. What her parents went through was particularly poignant, as well as the effect it had on her grandmother who watched it all. I was in tears by the end.
I think everyone should read this book. Whatever your background, it is important and it is still relevant today, not least because, for the most part, the events which occurred happened only very recently in human history. Chang is an amazing writer, and her family is one to be proud of.