This book was very informative! I had no idea Mao was so evil and stood shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Hitler and Stalin as histories most despicable characters. While I feel there may have been some embellishment in some areas, other books I have since read validate many of the main points.
I've read many China books and felt I had a decent handle on who Mao was. This book took it to a deeper level showing the hunger for power, the hell he put the population through and his sadistic nature. At the same time it dispelled the myth that this was someone with a vision for a better way of life through the new communism. His dictatorial control put so many millions through sheer hell, turning his wrath on everyone including his closest friends and allies.
Man, If you didn't already dislike Mao, you certainly will after hearing what an a-hole he was for 30 straight hours. I did listen to the entire thing. If an absolutely thorough attack on Mao is was you're looking for, this is it.
I believe, though I don't have time to prove, that there is significant single-source material in the book. That is, the authors go out of their ways to report some extremely negative nugget about Mao with little to show in the way of proof. And what I was left asking was why stretch? There was ample, incontrovertible evidence he was a total jerk. Maybe leave some of that out and cut it down to 15 hours. Or find a way to include something positive someone did in response to Mao, some heroic action, some figure who stood in opposition to his fascism. This history is unrelentingly negative. It's very depressing.
Yes. Partly because I believe that it's a story that needed to be told and partly because I knew so little about China and it's history.
This is a biography - so, you could say that my favorite character is Mao, but not in a good way.
I did enjoy Robertson Dean's performance in spite of the criticism of his poor Chinese accent. Since I know very little Chinese, his Chinese pronunciation, or lack of, did not bother me. But, I can imagine that it could bother a Chinese speaker. It's a very difficult language and really enjoyed the audible delivery. Also, I had just finished The Swans, a book I highly recommend, either before or after this one and the tone of the reading felt right, although the narrator, a woman, for the The Swans did have better Chinese pronunciation.
There were many moments, but definitely descriptions of what the people had to endure, was quite shocking. There was also so much to take in.
I think, at the end of the reading, I had questions about China's history and wanted to know more about how someone like Mao was able to come to power and stay in power for so long. I am listening to the Fall and Rise of China in the course series, which is beginning to answer some questions about the roots of Chinese culture and hope to continue to read more. Jung Chang is a wonderful writer and I plan to read more of her books.
I love Robertson Dean's reading. I plan to listen to the entire 50 hour "Powerbroker" recording again some time. He has excellent pacing and a gorgeous voice that I could listen to (literally) for days. BUT the producers of this audiobook should have given him at least a cursory overview of Chinese pronunciation. It made this book extremely difficult to listen to, not least because the pronunciation of Chinese names and words have different meanings due to their varied tonal pronunciation.
Chang's rendition of Mao is rather flat. Having read several biographies of Mao, I thought this one had some new things to offer, but overall lacked the depth and personality that you can expect from a great biography. Not much is known about Mao's early life, but the authors could have done more investigative work to build out his early life and give some context for the reasons he made the major choices that shaped his life. In biography, I want more than a journalistic list of chronological events. I want to know the author's take on why the person might have behaved in such and such a way; something juicy that gets into the phychology of the person. I want to come away feeling that I know the subject. That's not the case with this book.
Like I said I love Robertson Dean, but for this I would have picked any narrator who has command of Chinese pronunciation.
Astonishing tale of a greatest tragedy in human history consciously caused just by one man, a psychopath, Mao. Very enlightening peace of work read by an amazing narrator. Must read for anyone interested in history.
Definitely one of few books that I want to read more than once.