Wild Swans tells the story of a Chinese family, spreading across three generations. It starts with an account of the author’s grandmother, and then tells the story of her mother and herself respectively. It spans from 1909 to 1978 and takes place in China.
The book tells a lot of sad stories – foot binding, famine, civil war, torture and other atrocities that happened during that time period, so it’s not an easy read. There are parts that are brutal, but they just reflect what really happened. It has definitely made me step back and think about the Cultural Revolution, and what people went through during that period. Even now, people’s views about the Cultural Revolution are split, some of my teachers praise it, others detest it, it’s a difficult topic to talk about.
I see older Chinese people and wonder if they too were sent to labour farms in their childhood, if they were too made to recite the words from The Little Red Book and perform dances. These things happened not very long ago in Chinese history, so it’s hard to know how to and whether to talk to Chinese people about these things. This book is also banned in China.
This book was never on my reading list, I picked it up in a charity shop and it’s made me think a lot about the injustices that people have done to each other. I feel connected to the people in the book and their story has made an impact. It shocked and surprised me, and I’m sure it has had the same effect on other readers across the world.