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.
Enter the shadowy chambers of Mao's court, and eavesdrop on the drama in its hidden recesses. Mao's character and the enormity of his behaviour towards his wives, mistresses and children are unveiled for the first time. This is an entirely fresh look at Mao in both content and approach.
©2007 Jung Chang and Jon Halliday; (P)2009 BBC Audiobooks Ltd
As others have pointed out the clearly biased negative descriptions of MAO in this book are not believable and also illogical. Some people think that to convince others about a dictators terrible personality and life, you must only present negatives. The problem is that with any life experience most people know life is not black and white. And also to achieve something most often a person has to have some qualities to achieve it.
Hitler could not have come to power without any talents, if only a strange destructive charisma. Most agree he had other talents even an extraordinary strategic intelligence, which luckily was overridden by his megalomania as the war developed, so he lost.
In this book we are meant to believe, that a stupid, friendless, sadistic and destr5uctive person without any talents of organisation, leadership, military tactics and a total lack of economic understanding, whose every move turns into failures, tricked everybody else? And though everyone tried to oust him, and did several times, he lured himself back in and took power and control over the worlds largest country?
The odd thing is that this book makes most of the other communists leaders into heroes in comparison, like Deng who after Mao lead modern china to what it is to day: a despotic capitalist dictatorship that even beats the US in death sentences. No democracy, no freedom of speech, no respect for human rights, workers rights etc. etc.
And no documentation: Letter to a friend, in the report etc. no, names, no dates, no references. Still is a secret is often mentioned, but how the authors have uncovered them is not explained.
I was hoping to read how a struggle for freedom against poverty, etc. went wrong....
I just gave up, and warn others.
It seems that the pot is calling the kettle black for most of this book. Opinions, conjecture and even deductive reasoning were heavily laced with mal-intent to produce the most one-sided, one dimensional view of Chairman Mao. Proof, logical arguments were thin on the ground and why let a good story get in the way of truth anyway... neither side did.
There was also, much tail chasing organisation of the content and repeating of allegations which I as a reader would have prefered to have had edited so that I only got the 'facts' once not severally.
Anyway, as a lineal account of Mao's life it was informative and kept me busy in that I was constantly sieving out the spurious opinions and pulling back some of the outrageous claims which appeared to come out of no provable fact.
A book broken into 4 downloadable parts... peh... could have got the nitty gritty in on 2 parts and irritated the reader less. I have only ONE thing to say to a potential reader (in the style of this book) #1 make sure you have time to listen through extraneous character assassinations and unproven events in history #2 Make sure you have time to listen to this before you die of boredom #3 Make sure you don't throw the whole thing up in the air like Alice's pack of cards in Wonderland because it could all be a drug induced dream.
For those who can't face the full trip - here's the CHEAT'S version
A. Mao is ugly B. Mao doesn't wash C. Mao has no morals D. Mao doesn't understand loyalty. E. Mao was a coward and a bully F. Mao was a conniving schemer. G. Even Mao's own family knew he was unhinged.... all in all Mao was not a good man... now dear listener, you have the picture... just listen to the time sequence.. get the dates and important events and fill in the gaps with Mao was not a good man... If you must, you could sink as low as 'Mao is a nasty poo-poo head' and still fit in with the general feel and style of this mud slinging bio.
I avoid abridged books but during this listen thought it would have been easier to read the abridged version.
I have only made it through half of this book (my second on Audible). I think you would have to have a keen interest in politics and chineese history to really appreciate all of it. I liked the parts about Mao as a person, but less so in regards to the more historical parts.
I'm not sure I will ever make it through the whole book...
Very detailed and gives the impression of being meticulously researched. I had only the most superficial information of Mao as a communist political leader. Now he seems truly evil, to an extent that makes other 20th century dictators appear pale in comparison. True, with four parts to it there are some lengths, yet I do appreciate the short repetitions to get me back on track; I might have forgotten the unfamiliar names if not listening to it in one sitting (and who can truly do that?!). It is a BBC recording. I hold this broadcaster in very high esteem, and this book does not disappoint. Di Langford does an exceptional job with this performance. Highly recommended. Now, where are the detailed biographies of the other 20th century dictators?
Definitely well researched and presented. Further proof that the "Chairman" was a truly evil individual
"Long and boring"
I started off all enthusiastic to learn about Mao's life but I had to give up as I was just so bored by the whole thing. It is not like me to stop listening to a book, but this one had me beat, I just did not care anymore. The tale meanders on and on, the reading is un-inspiring and now that I have stopped it, I just cant be bothered to start it again. Pity I bought it before Audibles new policy on books bought in error as I would gladly give it back!!
"Mao a nasty dude"
But this is a very turgid tome and very hard going even as a listener. I cannot imagine what it would be like to read.
Cannot recommend it
I had high hopes for this after Wild Swan but this biography is more like a history text book, many of the chapters stray too far away from the story of Mao himself. When the story does focus on Mao, it does tell a very detailed and fascinating, very ruthless dictator that is Mao, a man who cared about nothing and no one except himself and his search for power. Even if only 10% of the stories are true then he was a very scary monster. I'm on part 2 of 3 and don't think I will continue listening as it simply isn't a very gripping story.
"Revealing Personality & Actions"
This book offers a clear and easy to follow history of Mao, his life and his skills and failings. It is very well written and, importantly for the listener, very well read by Di Langford.
While it is very long , unsurprisingly considering the years and events involved, the writer does try to remind the listener of the personalities and the links as they go. As an English speaker the easy of the Chinese on the ear and memory needs that aid.
Terms such as Long March, Little Red Book and Cultural Revolution are familar to any interested in 20th Cent history but this book goes further into the backgrounds, the reasons, the goals and the effects on those responsible and those having to live with its results.
Well worth the time and attention.
About 800 pages and more than 30 HOURS of "Mao was a really really horrible person". 5/6 hours into the Audiobook, you can guess the rest. I kept listening and hoping but nothing changed: "Mao was a really really horrible and nasty dude".
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