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Mao's Last Dancer | [Li Cunxin]

Mao's Last Dancer

This is the true story of how one moment in time, by the thinnest thread of a chance, changed the course of a small boy's life in ways that are beyond description. One day he would dance with some of the greatest ballet companies of the world. One day he would be a friend to a president and first lady, movie stars, and the most influential people in America. One day he would become a star: Mao's last dancer, and the darling of the West.
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Publisher's Summary

This is the true story of how one moment in time, by the thinnest thread of a chance, changed the course of a small boy's life in ways that are beyond description. One day he would dance with some of the greatest ballet companies of the world. One day he would be a friend to a president and first lady, movie stars, and the most influential people in America. One day he would become a star: Mao's last dancer, and the darling of the West. Here is Li Cunxin's own story, a beautiful, rich account of an inspirational life, told with honesty, dignity, and pride.

©2003 Li Cunxin; (P)2004 Bolinda Publishing Pyt Ltd by arrangement with Penguin Group (Australia)

What the Critics Say

"[A] heartening rags-to-riches story." (Publishers Weekly)
"[Paul English] exercises such an intense and masterful concentration on the text that the listener's interest never flags....He imbues the narrative with ingenuousness and enthusiasm, which endearingly befit the image Li is attempting to present of himself. The result is an audiobook that is superior to its source." (AudioFile)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.3 (295 )
5 star
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4.6 (95 )
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Story
4.5 (98 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Nardia Adelaide, Australia 10-22-09
    Nardia Adelaide, Australia 10-22-09
    HELPFUL VOTES
    30
    ratings
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    4
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    Overall
    "Enlightening!"

    Thoroughly enjoyable! The first part relating Cunxin's childhood especially touched me in the way it revealed the love, humour and even small moments of happiness possible in such a desperate situation. I have to agree with other comments that an asian narrator probably would have sounded more authentic, but Paul English did a wonderful job none the less. If you have seen the movie and think you know the story, think again! The book is definately worth the listen, as the movie probably only contained 10-15% of the original story (as most movies often do, understandably because of time restraints) and most of my favourite parts weren't there! Get the book - You wont regret it!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kevin Kingston, QLD, Australia 04-13-09
    Kevin Kingston, QLD, Australia 04-13-09 Member Since 2008
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    4
    2
    Overall
    "Great story well read"

    This was our second audio book and forund it very well read and an interesting story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Montgomery, AL, USA 03-02-09
    Michael Montgomery, AL, USA 03-02-09
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
    ratings
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    9
    2
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    0
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    Overall
    "Ham Sandwiches"

    Ah, I dearly enjoyed this book... For a native-born American like myself, this was a unique portrait into the life of a man whose youth was much more difficult than my own, from a culture that is diametrically opposed to many of the ideals central to the America that I know. And yet I can relate to his life's story; because from beginning to end, the strongest theme in Mao's Last Dancer is the importance of family. Initially, that drew me in-- and from there, Li Cunxin took me on a journey with him, across the world and through some of the most important historical events of the past century.

    Paul English provides fantastic narration here. His accent may not be Chinese, but his emotions are true; and as any audiobook fan knows, if the reader gets that part right, we can fill in the rest. Bravo, sir.

    I would also like to recommend scrambled eggs. When properly cooked, they are rich and delicious; and I can recommend them to almost anyone.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    01-31-09
    01-31-09 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Overall
    "Fascinating glimpse into the end of an empire"

    This is an excellent, fascinating story of one of the last dancers to come out of the Mao regime. His story was interesting to me on several levels. On the most basic level that almost anyone can enjoy is the unfolding of a cultural revolution in China while being emotionally involved in the story of a key player. A young boy is taken from his village (that had no power or running water!) to train in the old communist system to become one of the world's most celebrated dancers. Realizing that this man is not yet 50 and his ability to experience the cultural changes that have overtaken China within his lifetime is nothing short of mind boggling.

    I have to say that I am perplexed at why they do not have an Asian narrating this story, or at least a reader with an Asian accent which would have made this much more authentic for me. The narrator was not bad and after reading the name of the title character in print, I was glad to let someone else do the pronunciations for me, but still...

    Because I am a dancer/choreographer, the performer in me enjoyed the artistic exploration of the story. Ben Stevenson, the current artistic director of the DFW Ballet is a key person here and I have seen both him and his work several times, so that was an added level of interest.

    While not the best literary work, it is a fascinating story and very credit worthy.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Deanna Andover, MA, USA 05-25-08
    Deanna Andover, MA, USA 05-25-08 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
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    218
    3
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    0
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    Overall
    "Wrong narrator"

    The narrator was good in his reading of the book, but he had the wrong accent. I kept forgetting the main character was Asian. He just didn't fit the book in this case.

    2 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jena SAN FRANCISCO, CA, United States 03-26-11
    Jena SAN FRANCISCO, CA, United States 03-26-11 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
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    8
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    10
    Overall
    "Enjoyable but not memorable"

    A nice biography for people who know nothing about China and like a good story that ends well.

    - Overall a nice rags-to-riches, well-tied up story. You won't find many surprises here, but it will satisfy and is appropriate for kids - though kids younger than 10 or 11 might get lost.
    - The political commentary and historical events seen through the eyes of the narrator, combined with the observations on American vs. Chinese cultures, are telling.
    - First ~3 hours of the story is a summary of the narrator's childhood, which is uneventful for the most part except for some social commentary on the state of Chinese peasant life. For readers, happy childhoods are not typically interesting enough to warrant this much time. Fast forwarding through most of this will do you no harm in understanding the rest of the story.
    - Story is riddled by instances of deus ex machina: The main character's major struggles are conveniently solved by hands of Providence (or in his case, the President of the United States - yawn) which reach down at the last minute to save him.
    - Cliche ("scared out of my wits") phrases abound here. I seek new and fresh metaphors, so I'll admit a bias. This may not bother some readers/listeners.
    - Main character, who is also the author, comes across as spoiled and pompous at times, which reduces his credibility and thus the reader's sympathy.

    Good story, but not in my Top 10.

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
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