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  • Wild Swans

  • By: Jung Chang
  • Narrated by: Pik-sen Lim
  • Length: 27 hrs and 15 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (1,153 ratings)

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Summary

Few books have had such an impact as Wild Swans: a popular best seller and a critically acclaimed history of China that opened up the country to the world.

Through the story of three generations of women in her own family - the grandmother given to the warlord as a concubine, the Communist mother, and the daughter herself - Jung Chang reveals the epic history of China's 20th century.

Breathtaking in its scope, unforgettable in its descriptions, this is a masterpiece that is extraordinary in every way.

©1991 Copyright © Globalflair Ltd 1991, 2003 (P)2015 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd

Critic reviews

"Immensely moving and unsettling; an unforgettable portrait of the brain-death of a nation." ( The Sunday Times)
" Wild Swans made me feel like a five-year-old. This is a family memoir that has the breadth of the most enduring social history." ( The Independent on Sunday)

What listeners say about Wild Swans

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Mesmerising and haunting at the same time

One of the most astonishing books you'll ever hear. Astonishing in its detail, recall and portrayal of life in 20th century China. From its origins in the Empirical style late 19th Century, to rule under the feared Kuomintang, the rise of the Communist Party and the emergence of Mao and his reign of terror, on finishing I want to start all over again, so much will I miss Jung Chang's captivating story and stories, told in extraordinary detail. This epic tale captures the mind's eye on first listen and holds it there throughout. At times it was deeply harrowing, shocking and moved me to tears. The narration is superb - fitting and easy to listen to. I have wanted to read Wild Swans for 20 years and it surpassed all expectations. Listen to this great book - you will not be disappointed.

31 people found this helpful

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History

I have never read anything about China, I am so happy I have read this. It has explained so much that I had no knowledge about. I am looking forward to learning more especially if it means that Jung Chang has written it. Thank you for sharing your family's amazing story .

18 people found this helpful

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Heart rendering but beautiful.

I listened to this on audible because although I had got the book in the year 2000 I needed to have it read each day. There is so much to take in, reading a page before putting the light out doesn't do it justice.
As an English woman who had lived abroad as a child I found much of the book hard. The unjustness, cruelty, and hate that the human can sink to is scary. It is not just the Chinese but the human race as a whole. Only the very strong can stand against it.
Many times my emotions were rocked from sinking thought of the person being spoken about not being able to get out of their situation to blessed relief at their survival. Then on to anger at the treatment of someone else.
This book is an emotional roller coaster but well worth the listen. There are lessons to be learned.

13 people found this helpful

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Gets under your skin

This brave book allows us an insight into the China that we were never meant to see. Compelling and very very sad.

9 people found this helpful

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Second time around ...

I'm far from an avid reader but Wild Swans is one of the very few books I have read (over 15 years ago), a fascinating history, a real insight to Chinese life, shocking most of the time. But so good it deserved another 'read' this time audio and again really enjoyed the journey and a good reminder of how lucky we are.

5 people found this helpful

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The story of three women.

I enjoyed the book very much as it showed how much China has changed in the time of pre Mao up to more recent times. The three Wild Swans are the author, her mother ( who) was a strong supporter of Mao, and her grandmother. All of whom were women of their times and culture. I have already recommended Wild Swans to several of my friends.

5 people found this helpful

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Beyond brilliant!

Fantastic. A heart wrenching take of survival against inhumanity on a continental scale. It chronicles three generations of women from the same family. One a warlords concubine, another a rebel and the author. All set against the back drop off a turbulent China struggling against imperialism, extreme socialism and Japanese invasion. Mao should rank along side Hitler for crimes against humanity . This is a future classic and should be, I believe, on the national curriculum. It certainly puts life in the West in perspective and highlights why it's such an appealing destination for asylum and immigration...

10 people found this helpful

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The best book I have ever listened to

A truly wonderful account of life in China through 3 generations of women, beautifully written.

4 people found this helpful

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Memorable, moving and saddening

This is one of the most memorable books I’ve listened to or read. The 20th history of China is told through the personal experiences of three generations of women, including the author, who writing in the first person, brings the suffering and enormous social upheavals painfully to life. Lives made so grim by the injustices heaped on the women and their families that I felt fury on their behalf. I was engrossed throughout by the bravery and tenacity of victims of the different regimes the worst of which by far was that of Mao. I knew that he’d ruined the country by his extreme version of communism but hadn’t realised quite how vicious he and his henchmen were during the cultural revolution. Hitler and Stalin are rightly vilified, but, I think Mao outdid them in his megalomania. It’s sad how the early optimism that Mao’s take-over of the country would create a more equal society degenerated into a highly hierarchical regime of fear and cruelty, a ruined economy, mass starvation and millions of deaths. A period of madness that also obliterated much of China’s proud cultural heritage and scarred the lives of a generation.

I unreservedly recommend this superb and well narrated book.

28 people found this helpful

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Wow

A truly beautiful story well written with a sensitive touch, while not ignoring the brutality of China's past.
Excellently narrated and truly authentic

3 people found this helpful

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  • SLW
  • 14-11-16

Mind-boggling account of Chinese upheaval

Would you consider the audio edition of Wild Swans to be better than the print version?

Not necessarily. I have the print version and consider both valuable.

What did you like best about this story?

Although I was familiar with the outlines of this period in China, I found the personal story of the family that goes through the experiences of drastic changes riveting.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Maybe something like "adapt or die" or "what seems to be true isn't" or "you can't always get what you want and sometimes you can't even get what you need"

Any additional comments?

Amazing story, well told.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Rosanna
  • 20-01-16

Exceptional Story!

Enthralling story. Well written, beautifully read. Truly an anazing story told across generations intertwined with a balance of history and information.

3 people found this helpful

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  • FAWF
  • 05-12-20

Warning to America

I 1st read Wild Swans 20 yrs ago while managing a team in Shanghai. I read the book to better understand the people I was working with. At that time I would shake my head in disbelief at what Moa and the CCP did to China. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that similar events could take place in the USA. Now rereading the book in 2020, I feel much as Jung Chang did when she read Orwell’s 1984. She remarks in the book at how well 1984 described her experience in MOA’s China. Wild Swans in a similar way describes what we are now seeing in 2020 USA. The parallels between the Red Guard and BLM are unmistakeable, the tactics are identical. Their use by the Left 50 yrs later is out of the same playbook. Wild Swans is a fascinating story and a dire warning to any brave enough to open their mind to history.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Alexandro
  • 11-03-19

A book to prevent history from repeating itself

This is a very interesting book that gives a lot to analyze in regards to the way communist ideologies are presented to populations and how these tactics are still used in modern day politics. I bought this book with the intention of relating the previously mentioned “tactics” to the political panorama of today’s Mexico. And it proved to be very useful in that regard.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Em Cheng
  • 22-06-20

Listen to this version!

There are two highly rated versions of this audiobook and I vastly preferred the narration by Pik-sen Lim, who did a great job empathically narrating, and in general is a more authentic voice for the author.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Fernanda Orrego
  • 13-11-19

Emotional and historical.

I was carrried through the country and the lives of this family. Good choise for the audio.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 23-09-20

Fascinating!

An absolutely fascinating story of an amazing family. I wish I could have known all this when we briefly covered 20th Century China in school history.

Such a brave story of three generations of women who all suffeted for their strong sense of what is right.

Brilliantly read - l was grateful to have the correct pronunciations of all the Chinese words as, had I read it in hard copy, I would have got them all so wrong!

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  • nrg645
  • 11-08-20

Eye opening, awe inspiring, heart wrenching...

I was on the edge of my seat the whole time... it's a must read if you know as little about the Hitler of China as I did. So respectfully and honestly written. Thank you for your courage!

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  • Jessica P.
  • 20-05-20

best audiobook I've listened to

Best audio video book I've listened to. Interesting view into China's history through eyes of three generations.

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  • Balarka
  • 16-05-20

An astonishing gift

What a astonishing gift this book is. So brilliantly written and honest. It is as though I have journeyed to the very heart of China through the experiences if Jung Chang and her family.

I also feel that she has made me look at my own life anew even though I grew up in a completely different world in Zimbabwe in southern Africa. Thank you so much for sharing this with us all.