Reviews of Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister: Three Women at the Heart of Twentieth-Century China


“Chang strides over a century of world-shaking events with all her storytelling flair and fluent command of original sources . . . [An] epic tale.” (i)

Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister is a monumental work, worthy both of Jung Chang’s Mao and of the great, rambling, heterogeneous Chinese folk epics of the oral past, such as The Water Margin and The Three Kingdoms. Its three fairy-tale heroines, poised between east and west, spanned three centuries, two continents and a revolution, with consequences that reverberate, perhaps now more than ever, in all our lives to this day.” (Hilary Spurling Spectator)

Outstanding… As with her previous books, most famously Wild Swans, it is Chang’s sympathetic, storyteller’s eye ― her attention to deeply human detail during the most extraordinary circumstances ― that makes her work remarkable. Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister is another triumph.” (William Moore Evening Standard)

The Soong sisters were an extraordinary trio… Jung Chang has shown, in books such as Wild Swans, her instinct for a compelling story, and that instinct stands her in good stead here as she weaves her way through the complex history of China … Well worth reading…” (Rana Mitter Sunday Times)

Chang is too deft a biographer to tell you how to think. The sisters are sage and foolish, selfless and vain, brave and fearful, loyal and treacherous… It is up to the reader to decide if the Soongs are fairytale princesses or wicked stepsisters… The sisters were divided by politics, united by love. Even as you recoil from their actions, you are moved by their bond. In this lucid, wise, forgiving biography Chang gives a new twist to an old line. Behind every great man… is a Soong sister.” (Laura Freeman The Times)

Utterly engrossing… It stars a trio of extraordinary women… Their gripping collective story reads like Wild Swans meets the Mitfords; and the history feels remarkably close to our own times too.” (Caroline Sanderson Bookseller)

A remarkable story of war, communism and espionage related with nuanced sympathy… The lives of the three Song sisters – the subjects of Jung Chang’s spirited new book – are more than worthy of an operatic plot.” (Julia Lovell Guardian)

Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister, written in a compulsive style that sweeps the story along, is much the fullest account of their remarkable lives available in English… The warts-and-all portrait of “the Father of the Republic” is a welcome corrective to
the conventional hagiography.” (Jonathan Fenby Financial Times)

Urgent and powerfula fascinating window into 20th-century Chinese history.” (Irish Independent)

A riveting and action-packed story where it’s hard not to be enthralled by the murky underworld of the Soongs ― its numerous twists and turns are saturated with money, travel, history, corruption, treachery, risk, honour, glory, fear, deception, power, and politics.” (J.P. O’Malley Irish Sunday Independent)

“Deeply researched, Chang’s book is a riveting read”The New York Times Book Review
“Chang adds another title to her series of lively depictions of key figures in Modern Chinese history . . . This accessible book will appeal to history buffs and biography fans in addition to those already familiar with the Chang’s body of work.”Library Journal
“The book intertwines the intimate with the big historical picture, tying their personal stories to the deep and irreconcilable political divisions among them . . . it is stamped by her revisionist impulse.”The Atlantic

“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

“One of this autumn’s biggest reads, it’s an astounding story told with verve and insight”—Stylist

“The complicated history of China during this period is little-known to most Westerners, so this readable book helps fill a gap. By hooking it onto personalities, Jung Chang has been able to chart a comprehensible way through these decades and an immense mass of information that could otherwise be difficult to digest.”Washington Times

“In the hands of master storyteller and contrarian Jung Chang, the old tale finds a new interpretation by one who knows well the intricacies of family, influence, gender, and power in modern China . . . A provocative view of the historical times that produced these extraordinary sisters”Air Mail


Reviews of Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China

“An inspiring tale of women who survived every kind of hardship, deprivation and political upheaval with their humanity intact.”
Hillary Clinton, O, The Oprah Winfrey Show

“Immensely moving and unsettling; an unforgettable portrait of the brain-death of a nation.”
J.G. Ballard, Sunday Times

Wild Swans made me feel like a five-year-old. This is a family memoir that has the breadth of the most enduring social history.”
Martin Amis, Independent on Sunday

“This real-life saga of a Chinese family over three generations contains more domestic drama than Dynasty, more violence than any film noir, more heart-rending tragedy than Little Dorrit and more ironic twists and turns and villains on the make than any Balzacian fresco. Almost casually, Jung Chang introduces us to a world where personal insecurity, sudden ruin and the possibility of torture and violent death are as perfunctorily taken for granted as tomorrow”s thunderstorm. There has never been a book like this.”
Edward Behr, Los Angeles Times

“Of all the personal histories to have emerged out of China”s twentieth-century nightmare, Wild Swans is the most deeply thoughtful and the most heart-rending I’ve read. It moves, in part, like a ghastly oriental fairytale, but the authority and the reticent passion with which Jung Chang speaks her memories – and those of others – is unmistakable.”
Colin Thubron, Spectator

“A huge tour de force.”
Derek Davies, Financial Times

“Makes visible, intimate and immediate the pain and horror that are cloaked in the silence of China”s recent history.”
Howard Chua-Eoan, Time

“Riveting, an extraordinary epic. A work of true, living history drawing deep on family memories, an unmatchable insight into the making of modern China and the impact of war and totalitarianism on the destinies of a quarter of the human race.”
Richard Heller, Mail on Sunday (UK)

“An extraordinary story, popular history at its most compelling. Her readiness to record life’s small pleasures as well as its looming horrors is not only an index of Jung Chang”s honesty and good humour, it is a part of what makes Wild Swans so fascinating. To compare Wild Swans to sagas of the kind that fill the bestseller lists may seem to trivialise the real and deadly seriousness of its subject matter, but the book offers many of the pleasures of good historical fiction.”
Lucy Hughes-Hallet, Independent (UK)

“If you care at all about the history of China in the twentieth century – or even if you don’t, come to think of it – Wild Swans is riveting. It’s blindingly good: a mad adventure story, a fairy tale of courage, a tall tale of atrocities…. You can’t, as they say, put it down.”
Carolyn See, New York Newsday

“Mesmerizing. Like all great stories of survival, no matter what tragedies and horrors are encountered along the way, Wild Swans is ultimately an uplifting book: it is the the courage and spirit of this family which will, I believe, be my abiding impression (even if memories of the horrors endured will take a long time to fade).”
Antonia Fraser, The Times (London)

“If there remains the slightest doubt about the tragic quality of life in the China of this century, this memoir should put it definitively to rest.”
Judith Shapiro, Washington Post

“Everything about Wild Swans is extraordinary. It arouses all the emotions, such as pity and terror, that great tragedy is supposed to evoke, and also a complex mixture of admiration, despair and delight at seeing a luminous intelligence directed at the heart of darkness.”
Minette Marrin, Sunday Telegraph (UK)

“Wild Swans has stayed in my mind all year. Quite unforgettable.”
Michael Ignatieff, Times Literary Supplement

Reviews of Mao: The Unknown Story

“An atom bomb of a book.”

“Ever since the spectacular success of Chang’s Wild Swans we have waited impatiently for her to complete with her husband this monumental study of China’s most notorious modern leader. The expectation has been that she would rewrite modern Chinese history. The wait has been worthwhile and the expectation justified. This is a bombshell of a book.”
Chris Patten, last British governor of Hong Kong, in The Times

“Chilling…Impressive… An extremely compelling portrait of Mao that will still shock many. .”
The Christian Science Monitor

“An important book in ways not envisaged…A work of unanswerable authority.”
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“The most complete and assiduously researched biography of its subject yet published…No earlier work comes close to matching the density of detail here…The authors have performed brilliant historical detective work.”
The Atlantic Monthly

“Chang and Halliday cast new and revealing light on nearly every episode in Mao’s tumultuous life … a stupendous work and one hopes that it will be brought before the Chinese people, who still claim to venerate the man and who have yet to come to terms with their own history …”
Michael Yahuda, The Guardian

“A magisterial work…This magnificent biography methodically demolishes every pillar of Mao’s claim to sympathy or legitimacy…A triumph.”
The New York Times Book Review

“Jung Chang and Jon Halliday have not, in the whole of their narrative, a good word to say about Mao. In a normal biography, such an unequivocal denunciation would be both suspect and tedious. But the clear scholarship, and careful notes, of TheUnknown Story provoke another reaction. Mao Tse-Tung’s evil, undoubted and well-documented, is unequalled throughout modern history.”
Roy Hattersley, The Observer

“A triumph. It is a mesmerising portrait of tyranny, degeneracy, mass murder and promiscuity, a barrage of revisionist bombshells, and a superb piece of research.”
Simon Sebag Montefiore, The Sunday Times

“Jung Chang and Jon Halliday enter a savage indictment drawing on a host of sources, including important Soviet ones, to blow away the miasma of deceit and ignorance which still shrouds Mao’s life from many Western eyes…Jung Chang delivers a cry of anguish on behalf of all of those in her native land who, to this day, are still not free to speak of these things.”
Max Hastings, The Sunday Telegraph

“Demonstrating the same pitilessness that they judge to be Mao’s most formidable weapon, they unstitch the myths that sustained him in power for forty years and that continue to underpin China’s regime … I suspect that when China comes to terms with its pastthis book will have played a role.”
Nicolas Shakespeare, Telegraph

“The detail and documentation are awesome. The story that they tell, mesmerising in its horror, is the most powerful, compelling, and revealing political biography of modern times. Few books are destined to change history, but this one will.”
George Walden, Daily Mail

“decisive biography … they have investigated every aspect of his personal life and career, peeling back the layers of lies, myths, and what we used to think of as facts … what Chang and Halliday have done is immense and surpasses, as a biography, everything that has gone before.”
Jonathan Mirsky, The Independent, Saturday

“Written with the same deft hand that enlivened Ms. Chang’s 1991 memoir, Wild Swans…”
The Economist

Reviews of Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China


Empress Dowager Cixi by Jung Chang is easily the best I read in 2019. The Empress Dowager is possibly the most remarkable woman ever to have ruled a great nation – China for the entire late 19th century in an age where women could not be seen, let alone rule, in most of the Forbidden City. Cixi, a concubine, manipulated and cajoled herself to be one of the most powerful rulers China has ever known. Her reign is vital to understanding Mao and modern China, the great conundrum of the 21st century. Jung Chang, the revelatory biographer of Mao, does another X-ray job here.” Andrew Adonis, The New European

“If there is one woman who mattered in the history of modern China, it is the empress dowager Cixi… [Her] conventional image is queried in this detailed and beautifully narrated biography, which at long last restores the empress dowager to her rightful place. Chang’s book relies heavily on the vast holdings in the imperial archives in Beijing… She has a wonderful eye for the telling detail and excels at unraveling palace intrigues and corridor politics…”
Frank Dikotter, Sunday Times

“In this vivid biography, as colourful and intricate as the embroidery on a Chinese robe, [Jung Chang] uses new evidence and meticulous research to cast a spotlight on the amazing woman she regards as the mother of modern China…This is a rich, dramatic story of rebellions, battles, plotting, rivalry, foreign invasion, punishment and forbidden love.”
Bel Mooney, The Daily Mail

“Jung Chang tells a story and what a colourful tale it is… This is history at its most readable.”
George Walden Evening Standard

“Chang has a proven Midas touch… Empress Dowager, by returning to female experience in the style of Wild Swans yet focusing, like Mao, on a controversial ruler, should appeal to fans of both.”
Jeffrey Wasserstrom, Financial Times

“A truly authoritative account of Cixi’s rule. Her story is both important and evocative.”
Orville Schell, New York Times

“Filled with new revelations, it’s a gripping and surprising story of an extraordinary woman in power. Using Chinese sources, totally untapped by western books, this reappraises one of the great monstresses of modern history… Jung Chang’s revisionism means that this book reveals a new and different woman: ambitious, sometimes murderous, but pragmatic and unique. All of this adds up to make Empress Dowager Cixi a powerful read.”
Simon Sebag Montefiore , BBC History Magazine