BECOMING MADAME MAO by ANCHEE MIN.
(Apologies, there is no picture of the cover available.)
Madame Mao is almost universally known as an ambitious, vindictive and cruel woman, whose bid to succeed her husband led to the death of millions. But her story begins with her childhood self, Yuhne; the daughter of a concubine, she refused to have her feet bound in a first act of rebellion.
She later fled the miseries of her childhood, first joining a provincial opera troupe then making a name for herself on the Shanghai stage. She married Mao Zedong, but the revolutionary leader proved to be an inattentive husband with an appetite for infidelity. Despite this, the couple stayed together throughout the Communist victory and Cultural Revolution.
....... Outer back cover.
FIRST SENTENCE (Chapter 1): She learns pain early.
MEMORABLE MOMENT (Page 202): I am playing a strange role: a queen who is a maid.
MY THOUGHTS: Not a biography as I had first thought, it was only on opening the book that I learnt that though the author had, and I quote, 'Tried (her) best to mirror the facts of history' this was in fact a novel.
Chronicling the life of Madame Mao from aged 4 when she was already displaying a fierce determination through her acting/opera career and her many relationships to her suicide, this is the story of a woman who constantly recreates herself, the story of a woman who despite her somewhat humble beginnings seems totally indifferent, if not oblivious, to the suffering of others.
Potentially an interesting read, I just found the fact that the narration jumped rapidly between the first and the third person totally bewildering and ultimately, along with the lack of punctuation, off-putting to the point where I struggled to finish reading the book.
All in all a disappointing read. Though Min gives an intriguing insight into life in China at the time, I felt her exploration of Madame Mao lacked a certain something and that at times she was in danger of portraying this notoriously 'evil' woman as something of a cartoon villain.
KEEP IT OR NOT?: Ex-library stock, this is one destined for the charity shop.