On the whole, that this book exists, and that the truths about sinister dictators like Mao will eventually come to light. Though Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago was told in the first person from someone "on the ground," and Mao was told by researchers, it wasn't lost on me that Jung Chang's relatives experienced the terrors of Mao firsthand. In a way, this didn't make the book "enjoyable" so much as "revel in the justice" of this book existing.
For the American left that view Mao as some sort of cultural hero this book should set you straight, and for the American right that view modern China as some sort of ingenious state-capitalism machine -- it would also likely set "you" straight in the realization that "state authority" only comes on the tail of "state violence." Whatever one's political persuasion may be, if you're able to stomach the horrors without brushing them away as the bias of the author, you'll find this book an extremely rewarding experience.
Mao's demonic poems about enjoying and hoping for the destruction of the universe. I've seen reviewers that were critical of the book claiming it wasn't "balanced" yet, what type of "balance" are they looking for if what they mean by balance is omission?
The most memorable event (in hindsight) was a communist party event where the audience basically "clapped down Mao" in order to avoid a famine; this memorable even because the setup for a payoff which was a massive and violent purge where Mao avenged himself against those whom basically clapped against him.
Awesome narration -- no characters, but his voice was strong and made you feel as if you could "stand up" to all the terrible things Mao was doing.
No. I listened to it in less than 2-weeks, but the horrors and atrocities committed by Mao made frequent breaks necessary.
I listened in a midst of listening to other histories of a relatively similar time period -- strangely, this book made me question Franklin Delano Roosevelt's legacy as such a "wonderful president" considering all that's presented here, even though that was not the purpose of the book. This book is a great standalone history of the forces that shaped modern China, but also feels like the missing puzzle piece in terms of World War II events that helped shape not only modern China but the balance of power in the world thereafter.
Despite issues with some of the pronunciation of names (both individual and of cities), this was a very well researched history of one of the more fascinating men of history. While I don't agree with everything the authors wrote, they told their side of the story well and I certainly see all the effort they put into it.
As mentioned above, this reader did not use the current system or romanization of Chinese names. For those who know Chinese, this can be distracting.
Mao is "complex", "sophisticated", and "Nefarious".
I felt the story was told from an objective first hand experience.
The depth and understanding that Robertson Dean brought to the story is something that would take a great deal of effort to bring out from the written text alone.
The moment that particularly moved me was more like a gradual realization of the momentum of the story as a whole that brought me to the point of understanding that Mao was the culmination of what happens when a mind accepts no principles but his own. Left to rule himself by his own desires, Mao caused the deaths of millions of people in China and left a nation wrecked by moral degradation: the country we now see before us today.
Mao may have been one of the most influential people in the modern world because of the profound effect he had on the political philosophy of China, and even beyond. Anyone wishing to gain a deeper insightful understanding of China should listen to this book!
Tell us about yourself!
I lived through the era of Mao! But, I'd never heard that he killed 22 million Chinese in one year...1960, and then killed 14 million more the next year! A lot of other information is in this book....and it's the best I've read.
The book is excellent and important, but the audio is marred by the absence of the book's several hundred pages of endnotes and references which are desperately needed to understand the quality of the authors' claims. That's the problem with this kind of book in audio. Also, the narrator has no clue how to pronounce Chinese names, so Zhou/Chou Enlai's name is pronounced "Chow," Peng and Deng are similarly butchered, etc. It hurts.
Something about myself...happy now?
It's cliche, but I could listen to Robertson Dean read the phone book in one sitting. I love everything about his speech and mannerism. He's simply the best narrator there is.
I ripped through this 26hr book in under a month, which may be a new record. It's that good.
The slow rise from fey, middle class academic to brutal sociopath warrants the time it takes for make the journey. In that way, the structure of the book serves the story. Dictatorships don't happen overnight. They take thought, planning.and careful manipulation of those around you. What's stunning, though, is how this thoroughly unlikable man managed to starve and murder tens of millions of his own people and remain in power. Often, especially in the last half of the book, I found myself screaming at my iPod for the citizens to start an actual revolution against Mao.
If there's a moral to the book, it's that education is the key. Keep the people ignorant and illiterate and dictatorship is easy. Mao continued to read voraciously as he destroyed the books and culture of those he was supposed to protect. Knowledge is power. Ignorance is powerlessness. Get the book and get some knowledge.
This book was eye opening and amazing. It has inspired a whole new love, fascination, and painful sorrowful regret towards Mao for what could have been had Mao never gained absolute power. An awesome look into how people can mutilate, persecute, oppress, and dehumanize each other.
My only hesitation would be the authors clear hatred, from the start, for Mao and all that is communism. Not that I don't share that view, but they seem very bias. However, you have to ask yourself, would I feel such hatred if 50-60 million of my fellow Americans were slaughtered? I think YES!!! 29+ hours plus of my life devoted to listening and I don't regret one second of it!!!
Book collector, lover of history, historical novels & biographies. Never cease to be amazed how one person affects the lives of so many
Yes, I am sure I missed many important points so looking to a second go at this book. I have heard this the facts of the book are questionable but I tend to disagree. Mao's selfish motives are consistent with with the dictators of this time. Fear and terror is their favorite tool of control. Their personal ( very sick) goals leave millions upon millions dead in their wake. Murderous purges of any kind are the norm of those who build a cult of personality. Hidden behind the supposed "savior" image were very sick men, all power hungry, narcissistic, manipulative and loyal to no one but themselves. Stalin said "The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic." The"one life" bit is meaningless to these Machiavellian leaders as they create statistics that astound readers. Mao's statistics are unfathomable.
Any biography of a leader where pictures and statues of the leader are abundant and used as propaganda to build a cult of personality describe the same sick man, Mao, however, is especially cruel, deceptive and manipulative. Its as if they innately follow the same recipe of leadership, the similarities are astounding, same man, same heinous methodology, different region of the world.
yes I have, consistent.
Impossible, much to long
learn how one sick man, in a position of power, will destroy millions of lives in multiple generations without one ounce of regret or remorse.
This could have been much better if narrator Robertson Dean had spent a little time researching how to pronounce the Chinese names and place names. He had to know that in performing a biography about Mao, he was sure to attract an audience familiar with Chinese history, geography, and language. I will concede that the authors made the task a challenge by failing to standardize their romanized Chinese in either Hanyu Pinyin or Wade-Giles. However, his awful attempt to apply Romance language phonetics to every word was at best a distraction, at worst, downright confusing. X's are not pronounced like Z's and Q's are not pronounced like K's.
I appreciated what the authors were trying to do with this biography. In contrast to the Chinese Communist Party's official accounts of Mao's life, this book is well researched, and it tells a side of the story that the party would prefer to hide. A more appropriate title might be "The Sins of Mao". I certainly wouldn't consider this to be an objective account, but it reveals the truth behind many persistent myths.
History Nerd with an emphasis on the history of the Great War. I live in San Jose CA
A binge listening audiobook if there ever was one. Granted the subject at hand is the sin qua non of an awful person, but wow, is he ever so good about being bad. Day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year one learns exactly what kind of monster we are dealing with. What we are dealing with is a man who gives both Hitler and Stalin a real run for the roses.
Cold, calculating, utterly unconcerned with the violence, misery and death he is inflicting. He is shown to be a totally amoral man only concerned with his own needs, need to power, and vendettas.
In loving detail (if loving is the right word) one is treated to men and women both high and low who are ground down to a fine powder by Mao, even, actually especially, his wives. We get a pretty grim portrait of the man and how he was very much the Red Emperor; with all the megalomania, egomania, and l'état, c'est moi that entails.
For example: palaces are made to specs, just so Mao can "enjoy" a view he might take in a decade from their construction, if at all. Mind you these edifices are made in a nation that is desperately poor and for the most part starving, uneducated, and worked mercilessly. Meanwhile, it's great to be the Emperor, go where ever you want in your armored car, eat whatever you want, and bed whatever woman catches your fancy. It's even more fun to contemplate and then enact the destruction of anyone who dares challenges your will in the slightest degree.
I could write more about this, but then I would be in spoiler territory. Go. Get. Listen. This is a wonderful Audio Book about a horrible man.