Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister sounded intriguing. I’d read the Wild Swans by Jung Chang several years ago, and was enthralled by it. Jung Chang has written several biographies and historical books about China. This is the first I’ve been tempted to read. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for the chance to read an advance copy.  It came out on October 17th. And it’s yet another contributor towards my Non-Fiction Adventure.

Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister

Big sister, little sister, red sisterby Jung Chang

They were the most famous sisters in China. As the country battled through a hundred years of wars, revolutions and seismic transformations, the three Soong sisters from Shanghai were at the centre of power, and each of them left an indelible mark on history.

Red Sister, Ching-ling, married the ‘Father of China’, Sun Yat-sen, and rose to be Mao’s vice-chair.

Little Sister, May-ling, became Madame Chiang Kai-shek, first lady of pre-Communist Nationalist China and a major political figure in her own right.

Big Sister, Ei-ling, became Chiang’s unofficial main adviser – and made herself one of China’s richest women.

All three sisters enjoyed tremendous privilege and glory, but also endured constant mortal danger. They showed great courage and experienced passionate love, as well as despair and heartbreak. They remained close emotionally, even when they embraced opposing political camps and Ching-ling dedicated herself to destroying her two sisters’ worlds.

Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister is a gripping story of love, war, intrigue, bravery, glamour and betrayal, which takes us on a sweeping journey from Canton to Hawaii to New York, from exiles’ quarters in Japan and Berlin to secret meeting rooms in Moscow, and from the compounds of the Communist elite in Beijing to the corridors of power in democratic Taiwan. In a group biography that is by turns intimate and epic, Jung Chang reveals the lives of three extraordinary women who helped shape twentieth-century China. [goodreads]

My Review

This is an epic undertaking by an excellent writer and historian. Jung Chang brings the early twentieth century to life as she explores the world of Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-Shek. She shows their progress towards revolution, seen through the lives of the family who knew them.  Taking the three sisters as the focal point is a clever way of exploring the twists and turns of Chinese society and politics as it moves from a monarchy through to communism.

The author crafts the extraordinary story through writings of many people who knew them at the time. These include letters from lovers, teachers and acquaintances, and reminiscences of fellow-students. It seems well researched, with occasional footnotes to help you place subsidiary events in context.

add to goodreads buttonI wouldn’t call it easy reading, although it is interesting. I definitely wouldn’t call it gripping unless you are a real fan of political intrigue and China in particular. It’s not one I’d place on the level of Wild Swans.  But it is definitely worth reading if it piques your interest.

Book Review | Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister

5 thoughts on “Book Review | Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister

  • 19 October, 2019 at 10:27 pm

    I loved Wild Swans. This sounds like an interesting read, too, but maybe kept for when I have more time to devote to it.

  • 19 October, 2019 at 11:23 pm

    I enjoyed Wild Swans too. Not sure I’d have the stamina for this right now, but it sounds interesting. I didn’t know about these three sisters.

  • 20 October, 2019 at 4:59 pm

    This sounds like a challenging book, but very apropos for current events with China!

  • 26 October, 2019 at 6:26 am

    Sounds interesting. I’m not sure I’m up for it, but I can think of some folks around here who might be.

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