• Library User

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang

Reviewed by L. Bennett

As an American college student taking the usual history and social science classes, I learned that China was a big poverty-laden country with a communist government that closed out capitalist countries. Little that I heard or read in the news altered that picture; much seemed to reinforce the image. Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang has given me pause.

The swans are three Chinese women, each from a different generation (GMo, Mo, Da) and they are wild because they don't strictly follow the rules of their times. The price they paid for their independent thinking and living was horrific. The grandmother's tale begins in the late 1890s and early 1900s when the political regime was undergoing a violent upheaval. The mother's story picks up as the political party changes to communism, another violent and unpredictable wave of change. The daughter, from whose perspective the book is written, tells of her own work for the communists and her departure from China. She tells her grandmother's and mother's stories with passion and respect, while providing the historical context in which to appreciate the women's' difficulties.

If a person did not follow the rules of the day -- and the rules changed often and with little warning -- their family was subjected to harassment, they lost their house and garden or farm, they were denied a job; in other words they lost the ability to support themselves. One's neighbors became spies, tattling on infractions and turning in people who were thought to possess more than they should or held opinions that were not quite in line with policy. Even family members turned in their kin. Soon the willingness of the government to convict and punish the accused, even if the evidence was questionable, became a blanket of fear under which residents allowed their freedoms to erode.

Against the tide of these changes, the women struggle to retain their own identity and relationships. They fight against having their families strewn about the country at the govt.'s whim, against the loss of their personal wealth (jewelry, books, clothing, furniture, cooking utensils), against rules that dictate when they can sleep with their husbands, and against the family and neighbors who charge them with alleged crimes. Each in her turn goes without food, works until her health is compromised, leaves loved ones behind, and tries to fulfill her role as an obedient citizen and wife. Their sense of moral right and wrong is often at odds with government policy.

Although much of the book addresses events and lives long past, it is a sobering story whose themes may be more modern than I'd like.

Search the library catalog for this title

4 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Monticello Military Journal by Fay Muhlestein Reviewed by L. Bennett The Monticello Military Journal, compiled and self-published by local historian Fay Muhlestein, started out to be just a few storie

Old Bones by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child Reviewed by L. Bennett Rookie FBI agent Corrie Swanson is investigating the mysterious theft of heads and the murder of a young woman, all persons with t

A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II by Sonia Purnell Reviewed by L. Bennett When you watch documentaries and movies or read books and articles ab