• Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister

  • Three Women at the Heart of Twentieth-Century China
  • By: Jung Chang
  • Narrated by: Catherine Ho
  • Length: 12 hrs and 6 mins
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (102 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

They were the most famous sisters in China. As the country battled through 100 years of wars, revolutions, and seismic transformations, the three Soong sisters from Shanghai were at the center of power, and each of them left an indelible mark on history.

Red Sister, Ching-ling, married the "Father of China", Sun Yat-sen, and rose to be Mao's vice-chair.

Little Sister, May-ling, became Madame Chiang Kai-shek, first lady of pre-Communist Nationalist China and a major political figure in her own right. 

Big Sister, Ei-ling, became Chiang's unofficial main adviser - and made herself one of China's richest women.

All three sisters enjoyed tremendous privilege and glory, but also endured constant mortal danger. They showed great courage and experienced passionate love, as well as despair and heartbreak. They remained close emotionally, even when they embraced opposing political camps and Ching-ling dedicated herself to destroying her two sisters' worlds.

Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister is a gripping story of love, war, intrigue, bravery, glamour, and betrayal, which takes us on a sweeping journey from Canton to Hawaii to New York, from exiles' quarters in Japan and Berlin to secret meeting rooms in Moscow, and from the compounds of the Communist elite in Beijing to the corridors of power in democratic Taiwan. In a group biography that is by turns intimate and epic, Jung Chang reveals the lives of three extraordinary women who helped shape 20th-century China.

©2019 Jung Chang (P)2019 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Chang seamlessly chronicles the lives and marriages of the Soong sisters in this captivating triple biography.... This juicy tale will satisfy readers interested in politics, world affairs, and family dynamics." (Publishers Weekly)

What listeners say about Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Fascinating reading

Really enjoyed learning more about the Soong sisters. Appreciated the background on the key men in their lives too.

5 people found this helpful

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Good history

Overview of China & Taiwan 1850-2000 as told through biographies of the Soong sisters. One of whom married Sun Yai Sin and one who married Chiang Kai-shel.

2 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars

The Golden nuggets are widely spaced

I truly appreciate this authors work. Her research is so impressive. In this case, her study subjects were just too dislikable to capture my heart or captivate my mind. The wonderful author is right to point out in the beginning that these sisters were uniquely involved in the modern history of China and Taiwan. However, other than all three sisters being married to influential figures, I only recall one particular instance in the book where Mailing played an incredible role in the outcome of history, involving one general who imprisoned her husband, the leader of the Nationalists at the time. Other than this instance, the women themselves and their partners are so sadly corrupt and their causes quite unforgivably dictatorial... but what other history do we have to compare with? All in all, I found the promised inspiring golden nuggets far from one another in this book and too easily forgotten in overwhelming damning personal details. Of course, reading about those who you really don't like is probably a good thing, but I've never disliked it this much even when I read her book that she co-authored about Mao.

Nevertheless, I thank the author for teaching me incredibly informative history of the political leaders and their ups and downs along their way... only the details of these sisters seemed too involved.

I cannot recommend all her other books enough!! So fascinating!! Even this one is really helpful historically in understanding the past hundred years in this part of the world in relation to the other ends of the world. I suspect I will always be looking out for her next book.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • CB
  • 12-08-19

kinda disappointing

anyone writing on an historical subject owes it to the reader to cut through the confusion, chaos, and obfuscation that encrusts figures from the past. Sometimes to do so involves taking a point of view. This book does not seem to be able to clear the muddle....

3 people found this helpful

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Interesting account of 20th Century Chinese History

Although the story is quite interesting. Telling a history is always multidimensional. My complaint is more about the book is more how it’s fIt’s written. An antique style of grandeur through the perceived public life of the some of the most unscrupulous fascist in the east. Very nice narration and would recommend this selection to any curious to get an insight on the personal lives of these three women.

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Fascinating account of one of the most influential

Wild Swans is a favorite book of money, so I could not wait to listen to this one. I learned so much, and was fascinated by the history of the influential Soong sister's. For anyone interested in the history of modern China and Taiwan, this is a must.