Thick. Voluminous. Its Flamingo edition has 696 pages. I laid it aside many times. I didn’t know how to finish it , but I wanted to heap it soon onto the other books read and unread; I was obsessed with the other new books I had splurged on. When I gave it a shot for the third time; I was so already excited that I was close to its real-life –saga ending. Then, I was stuck again, in some harrowing parts I had to understand by heart and turn over in my mind . There, I trudged along. I was almost cross-eyed at the figures and facts I could grasp no more , tearing my hair until I could let out a deep breath. ( Heavy sigh) Finally, I was done . My verdict: I SHOULD HAVE READ IT ALL ALONG WHILE I WAS DEEPLY ENGAGED IN POLITICAL DISCOURSE ON SOCIAL MEDIA DURING OUR NATIONAL PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. Its vivid details could have been mesmerizingly engaging, heart-breaking, and eye-opening. Besides, I came back to my senses that communism turns out to be an ineffective form of government after all. Also, out of my ignorance, somehow, I brushed upon some historical facts about Mao Zedong, the man I have been curious about, or I could have been looking up to because of his numinous image.
One of the big challenges for a writer, particularly an autobiographer, is to write all the blow-by-blow accounts to make the book appear accurate and credible. There are instances that some are laconic with their stories; they only choose the situations which could be appealing to their audience. ( It’s a matter of marketing strategy, I guess.) Who could dare write a book that is so full of dramatic but petty details? Of course, padding the book could be intended to impress its audience. And I don’t think it’s Jung Chang’s intention. Never mind its mind-boggling and undermining Chinese names of persons, places, and technical words buzzed if you don’t have these ears for language . You will still be abandoned to the waves of negative emotions each daughter draws off- pain, endurance, hopelessness, despair, cruelty, savageness, you name it. Whoa, woe to you. Sit tight! Make sure that you have this empty chest.
After all, the book is not just about novelizing Jung Chang’s experiences but a way of letting go of the past. She used this as the instrument for cauterizing all the feeling and thoughts she had pushed to the darkest corners of her mind for a long decade under Mao Zedong’s said totalitarian government. Also, through this book, she had rectified all the injustice her entire ancestors, particularly her parents and grandma, had suffered for a long time. She had the chance to clear of all the political mud slung against her families that went down in Chinese history, which was eventually expurgated after Mao Zedong’s political failure. At the same time, she had the chance to reminisce about the good memories which shaped her up as a strong and intelligent woman. However, as far as I know, the New China has not recognized the essence of her book yet out of jingoism. In fact, it was banned when it was published in 1992.
This book has been translated into 37 languages. No doubt. Quite apart from its heart-breaking themes, it is worth reading because it opens our mind. It will probably change our view points of the social issues in our contemporary era. You will understand that every country has different culture when it comes to family, society, and politics. So, you might come to realize that all the cultures could be immoral but stuck up in a time warp, especially when human dignity is already trodden. Everything is changing as is nature. Nonetheless, after all, I can’t cry bloody murder if such backward culture existed before ; it even did in our country, elsewhere. (Heavy sighs) Dare I say that we humans are still underdeveloped even up to this day, or it is just a matter of the philosophy of relativism? Look what is China now. North Korea. Some Middle East countries. The armpits of Africa. Even in state-of-the-art European nations. Now the issue is Brexit if you are aware of its referendum.
The book’s theme Cultural Revolution disabused me of that communism is not politically, socially, and economically feasible at all in a country that needs big social changes wherein all people should be ideally equal. I have been enlightened as an idealistic citizen that humans are fallible, that there is no such Utopia in a modern world. Evils have been part of the natural laws since the world began. ( heavy sigh)
Ever since I took to history subject, I have never had the clear details on Mao Zedong’s life. I was just tipped off that he was a cruel president of China , that he killed many babies, that he was revered as god. However, Jung Chang did not describe him much in the book. She was too euphemistic about him as though she still respected him despite all the pains China had suffered. In the end, I was not satisfied. I am still more curious about him . Who is Mao Zedong? Fiddlesticks! A red thick biography about him that I always see in a premier book store is now sparking my curiosity. The good thing is Jung Chang and her husband Jon Halliday wrote a biography about him : Mao: The Unknown Story. Interesting! As a matter of fact, she wrote another biographies about Empress Dowager Cixi and Madame Sun Yat- Sen. I hope to luck out and find them!
Rating: 5/ 5 stars ( It’s undeniably amazing.)