Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China
By Jung Chang
Review by Izzie (History)
History lessons at school were always very geared towards the British and European experience. Whether it was the Second World War, Stalin’s regime, or the Norman conquest in the 11th century, I felt like the curriculum left out a huge chunk of the world. Chinese culture and history was something of a mystery to me, even by the time I was in Year 11, so when I saw a book called Wild Swans on my dad’s bookshelf I was pretty intrigued. In this memoir, Jung Chang walks us through the lives of three Chinese women – her grandmother, her mother, and herself – growing up in pre-communist, revolutionary and communist China. Through these three generations of female experience, Jung Chang gives a wonderfully vivid and real account of what life in China was like in the 20th century.
Whilst being highly historically credible, this memoir is by no means academically challenging. Instead, it reads like fiction, since the experiences of the three women are both exhilarating and devastating. Beyond opening up an understanding of the political regimes and social constraints operating in China, this memoir is also great for anyone interested in commentaries on human nature, as well as the female experience. It was also a great book for easing me into more academic literature on global history (I went on to read John Darwin’s After Tamerlane: the Rise and Fall of Global Empires) which I was able to discuss in my personal statement. The book is well worth a read if you have the time!
Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang