Between 1958 and 1962, 45 million Chinese people were worked, starved or beaten to death. Mao Zedong threw his country into a frenzy with the Great Leap Forward. It lead to one of the greatest catastrophes the world has ever known. Dikotter's extraordinary research within Chinese archives brings together for the first time what happened in the corridors of power with the everyday experiences of ordinary people. This groundbreaking account definitively recasts the history of the People's Republic of China.
©2010 Frank Dikotter (P)2012 W F Howes Ltd
This audiobook will expose what most of us never knew: the People's Revolution hid a devastating loss of life through starvation and exhaustion. I also learned about the cult of personality and the role the Soviets played in this disaster. My only complaint was that the listing of data became tiresome, like steel tonnage exported, etc.
The best part of the story if the narration by David Bauckham. Clearly a well trained speaker of Mandarin, his articulation and inflection was spot on, and I never tired of his voice. Excellent book overall.
Parts of this recording may grate on the ears of anyone who speaks Chinese or has a firm idea of how Chinese names and places ought to be pronounced. At best, it's distracting, at worst it is hard to understand what names the narrator is attempting to pronounce. David Bauckham is otherwise a very competent and fluid narrator, which perhaps makes the Chinese pronunciation problems more noticeable.
Any narrator of similar competence, but who could pronounce the Chinese names and places mentioned in the text, would be a massive improvement.
There's plenty of available discussion about the importance of Dikotter's work in challenging Chinese orthodoxy regarding the Great Famine and Great Leap Forward. It's worth reading, as is the more thoughtful criticism of his arguments and methods in reaching his final figure of 45 million dead due to the famine.
The narrator clearly has no background whatsoever in reading texts with Chinese words, and it seems he couldn't be bothered to learn even approximate pronunciations. I'm not a language snob, and by no means expect perfection in this regard, but the pronunciations were so bad that I often had no clue what he was talking about. For example, Guangzhou became "Gwang-zoo," Liu Shaoqi became "Liu Shao-kee." And those were just some of the ones I was able to figure out based on context. Virtually every name and place was pronounced incorrectly, and these incorrect pronunciations weren't even consistent. I could figure out most of the time what he meant to say by the context, but it was very annoying when I had no clue what place or person was being discussed because of the abysmal pronunciations. It undermines the value as a learning tool. Save your money and buy the print version.
The Platypus Knows All
I would add more first hand accounts to humanize the story. It's hard to relate to a list of endless statistics. After a while they loose their impact.
The subject of this book is fascinating, and the author did a lot of research to shed new light on this topic.
However, the majority of the book listed endless statistics that became hard to relate to after a while. Given the human tragedy of the situation, the book felt less personal and more statistical. I think that it could have provided more impact if there were more narratives from first hand accounts.
The quantity of statistics made me start to question them after a while, even though the epilogue explains in detail how these stats were derived.
The author establishes a number of historically important points, and the anecdotes which are portrayed are graphic and impactful. But this all could have been accomplished with the same zeal and perspicacity in half the number of pages.
I haven't read the print version
The way the facts were laid out.
How to wreck a country
Makes me want to learn more about China, before and after crazy Mao.
"Masterly, involving and informative"
An excellent listen (of a long a detailed account that would have been a hard read I think). Combines vast detail with thought provoking insight
"Good book, poorly written"
This is a great book about a shocking period of history. Despite the heavy subject matter I found it engrossing. I've read a number of books on the subject however at times I found them to be rather repetitive. Not so with this book, it remains very readable. Shame the Chinese will never get hold of a copy!!
The book is called Mao's Great Famine, unsurprisingly there are very few highlights.
And this is where it all went wrong. I would strongly recommend the book, but don't get the recording. I don't know who made the decision to give Mr Bauckham the task of reading this, but they should hang their head in shame. His Chinese pronunciation is abysmal. I appreciate that Chinese is a language most are unfamiliar with, but surely a prerequisite for narrating a book about China would at least be a rudimentary understanding of how to pronounce names and places. He wasn't even consistent in his mispronunciation. Completely ruined it.
No, its quite depressing actually, only listen to it when the sun is shining.
Maybe you could do a re-recording, I'd even give it a crack.
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