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Mao: The Unknown Story | [Jung Chang, Jon Halliday]

Mao: The Unknown Story

Based on a decade of research and on interviews with many of Mao's close circle in China who have never talked before, and with virtually everyone outside China who had significant dealings with him, this is the most authoritative biography of Mao ever written.
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Publisher's Summary

Based on a decade of research and on interviews with many of Mao's close circle in China who have never talked before, and with virtually everyone outside China who had significant dealings with him, this is the most authoritative biography of Mao ever written. It is full of startling revelations, exploding the myth of the Long March, and showing a completely unknown Mao: he was not driven by idealism or ideology; his intimate and intricate relationship with Stalin went back to the 1920s, ultimately bringing him to power; he welcomed Japanese occupation of much of China; and he schemed, poisoned, and blackmailed to get his way. After Mao conquered China in 1949, his secret goal was to dominate the world. In chasing this dream he caused the deaths of 38 million people in the greatest famine in history. In all, well over 70 million Chinese perished under Mao's rule, in peacetime.

Combining meticulous research with the story-telling style of Wild Swans, this biography offers a harrowing portrait of Mao's ruthless accumulation of power through the exercise of terror: his first victims were the peasants, then the intellectuals, and finally, the inner circle of his own advisors. The reader enters the shadowy chambers of Mao's court and eavesdrops on the drama in its hidden recesses. Mao's character and the enormity of his behavior toward his wives, mistresses, and children are unveiled for the first time.

This is an entirely fresh look at Mao in both content and approach. It will astonish historians and the general reader alike.

©2005 Jung Chang and Jon Halliday; (P)2006 Books on Tape

What the Critics Say

"Sweeping." (Publishers Weekly)
"Boasts a monumental marshaling of detail and historiographically overturning revelations." (Booklist)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.2 (248 )
5 star
 (128)
4 star
 (75)
3 star
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4.4 (114 )
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 (74)
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3 star
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Story
4.2 (113 )
5 star
 (57)
4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Jene Northbrook, IL, USA 08-07-06
    Jene Northbrook, IL, USA 08-07-06 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
    27
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    "Fills many gaps! Very good..but!"

    I find this book fascinating, because it is detailed and complete. I am an American and a friend of the late Helen Snow, have lived in China off and on for many years, and am knowledgeable of China's recent history,culture and some of the players. This book answers many questions I have had. The only problem - and it is disturbing - is the narrator. His pronunciation of the Chinese names is so far off the mark that I had to stop now and then to ask myself, "who is he talking about?" Or I would find myself thinking, "Oh, he means ___" This is disturbing. Even though many non-Chinese liseners might not know the difference, it is such a fine presentation, backed by years of painstaking research, the narration is irritating, and falls short in this one area. It seems important to me that the narrator know how to pronounce the names of the recognized leaders of modern China. But this is the only limitation I find- I am listening slowly to get every word! Thanks!

    17 of 17 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jenna Carstairs, AB, Canada 03-08-08
    Jenna Carstairs, AB, Canada 03-08-08 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    3
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    "Well written, well read & VERY interesting"

    Enjoyable even for someone like me who knew NOTHING about Mao or China prior to diving into this book. The book is lengthy and I have to admit that I did zone out in a couple places but this in no way detracted from my enjoyment or understanding of the story. There's a lot to take in here, but rather than being daunted by the length and detail of the book, I would highly recommend giving it a listen and taking in what you can.

    11 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Keith O'Loane 10-23-10 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    6
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    "Frightening but worth the listen"

    If anyone ever tells you they think Mao is a person to look up to you might want to think again about that person. Mao was a total despot and one of the worst people to ever live. The things described in this book are frightening. It puts a lot of history into context, namely Korea and Vietnam and how this guy used those wars for only personal gain, he didn't care how many Chinese or others died. Not to be listened to with the kids, but excellent if you want to learn history and thus not be doomed to see it repeated.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Steaven Murrieta, CA, United States 06-09-12
    Steaven Murrieta, CA, United States 06-09-12 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    17
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    Story
    "Terrible narrator!"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    There is nothing more criminal in butchering a good book by a lousy reader. The narrator couldn't pronounce a single Chinese word properly, it is so hard to follow sometimes when you have to think twice who the heck he is talking about. Like "Zhou Enlai" was read as "Chao" that's so wrong, it should be more like "Joe" and "Chiang" was read as "Chang" so it gets really confusing. Even as simple as "Jiang qing" was read as "Jiang King" and I won't even start with places. That's another disaster to listen to.
    Long and short of it, the book is good, I like the detailed insights and story, but the narration gets into my nerves. Sorry. my rating is Story 4 stars and Narration 0 stars (If I could).


    What other book might you compare Mao to and why?

    Wild Swan. Book is written by the same author and goes along the same format. I like it.


    How could the performance have been better?

    Learn how to read Chinese pinyin first before recording the book.


    Could you see Mao being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

    No comment


    Any additional comments?

    Please make sure the book reader knows how to pronounce chinese words before reading the book.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Walter Wheaton, IL, United States 10-24-11
    Walter Wheaton, IL, United States 10-24-11 Member Since 2005

    Conservative Catholic Curmudgeon

    HELPFUL VOTES
    37
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    Story
    "The Definitive Biography"

    Forget everything you learned in school about Chairman Mao! This book corrects countless misconceptions and reveals the unvarnished truth about one of the most evil leaders in world history.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chris Duesseldorf, Germany 05-01-11
    Chris Duesseldorf, Germany 05-01-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
    16
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    "good book"

    One cannot say that one enjoys this book. It is a book of the destruction of very many lives, and disrespect of what many readers may hold dear. Reader beware. But it is well written and tells the story of a powerful man in world history.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    L. Jay Centennial, CO, USA 07-21-07
    L. Jay Centennial, CO, USA 07-21-07 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
    24
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    "Well worth the time"

    This is an amazing book. It gives you an entirely new perspective on China. Mao's leadership was horrendous. It is hard to conceive of anyone with less concern for human life and suffering. I came away from the book with the realization that China be a much greater economic threat to the United States today if it had not been victimized by Mao.

    9 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paul Watertown, ma, United States 03-26-13
    Paul Watertown, ma, United States 03-26-13 Member Since 2005

    Something about myself...happy now?

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Story
    "Wao!"

    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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gregory Ashland, OR, USA 08-11-07
    Gregory Ashland, OR, USA 08-11-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
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    5
    1
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    "Excellent book, lousy narration"

    The book is marvelous. The narration is appallingly bad. There are so many mispronunciations of Chinese and Vietnamese personal names that it's hard to believe this narrator has every listened to international news.

    6 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    brian cincinnati, OH, United States 02-23-14
    brian cincinnati, OH, United States 02-23-14 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Story
    "Shatters the Mao myth."
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I would for the history mostly.


    What other book might you compare Mao to and why?

    I can't think of one.


    What does Robertson Dean bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Great narration. Being blind, audio books is how I tend to 'read'.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    No extreme reaction.


    Any additional comments?

    None.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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