This book was absolutely amazing. It was the first time in years that I had not been able to put a book down. This book is a striking story of what it was like to live in China under Mao. If you are at all interested in this period of history, this book is a must read. It is a true story that is both passionately romantic and incredibly disturbing.
(From Booklist) This is an honest and frightening memoir of growing up in Communist China during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. Min describes a systematically deprived Shanghai childhood (the family was forced into successively meaner quarters); school days spent as a member of the Red Guard, spouting the words of Chairman Mao and being forced to publicly betray her favorite teacher; and later teen years on a work farm in order to become a peasant because peasants were the only true vanguard of the revolution. The farm years, with their backbreaking workdays and heartbreaking, lonely nights, exemplify the grinding insanity of the Cultural Revolution, the terror and dehumanization it inflicted on ordinary Chinese. Eventually, Min was tapped by the party to be in the propaganda film Red Azalea, during the making of which she suffered more humiliation and political subterfuge. What is so extraordinary is that Min managed to keep a tight hold on her spirit. Her autobiography is not just a coming-of-age story or history lesson; it is a tale of inner strength and courage that transcends time and place.
This book does give a good sense of the insanity and cruelty of life under Mao, which is what I sought, but reads a bit more like fiction due to a few qualities that some readers will love but others (like me) who are interested in the book primarily for a view of the Chinese experience during that era will find distracting.
Much of the book is devoted or connected to two clandestine love affairs (which are themselves in some way telling about life in China during the time) but they're somewhat confusing -- both in terms of following the narrative, as well as understanding them in the context of the broader society. (IE, she and one lover had trysts in a room where other people slept, but no one noticed -- this in a society full of spies.)
She also does not offer perspective on how or why she gets certain privileges or process them after the fact. I found myself double-checking that the book was a memoir.
Tedious and too long. Very little content/information in very drawn-out prose. Just could not get going with this book. Having read Wild Swans which is an autobiographical book about 5 times the length of Red Azalea, I was incredibily disappointed with this book. This is not the book to read if you want to truly understand the culture of China and how people survived the hardships and restrictions of the Mao regime.
Loved the book. I read it a while back, but it has come up for a book group I belong to so wanted to read again to get a better handle on the discussion. In fact, I have read a number if Anchee Min's books and enjoyed them all.
This book is an autobiography written by a young woman who was raised in China at the time of the Cultural Revolution by Chairman Mao. As a young child, she was a convert..she saw Communism as the answer for a better life. As she matured, she began to realize the repression and injustice of the dictatorship. After reading "The Good Earth" by Pearl S. Buck, which took place before the revolution, this book puts a new spin on life in China during and after that upheaval. The reader can feel the frustration felt by the author and her friends and family. Very well written in the first person. D.