Simply put, “Wild Swans” is a poor man’s [b:Life and Death in Shanghai|537404|Life and Death in Shanghai|Nien Cheng|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348908435s/537404.jpg|619099].
Reason being that that while the initial chapters about [a:Jung Chang|1237|Jung Chang|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1281963145p2/1237.jpg]’s grandmother are informative and interesting as it gives us a peek into the life of people in Pre-Communist China; as the book progresses, Chang’s ignorance (as she was a little girl at that time) about the events happening around her becomes a permanent annoyance.
I am not saying that Chang was still ignorant about what happened in China during the “Great Leap Forward” and “The Cultural Revolution” after she grew up; she definitely knows her history, but it seems that she has tried her level best to hide that in her book.
She would write something like, "My dad was very sad about the things that were happening in China but for me it was very difficult to understand it at that time.” And then she would start talking about something else without even clarifying her point. Even with the benefit of hindsight, it seems that she never really wanted to write in detail about the causes, reactions and outcomes of the events like “The Cultural Revolution”.
Her book is what the title itself suggests, about three daughters of China, but it is only and only about the three daughters of China and I was expecting it to be a little more than that. Chang took her time to tell her story, 700 odd pages in all, so it’s only fair to expect her to write more about China’s history, but instead she chose to write about the flowers in the garden of the hospital where her father was being treated during the “Cultural Revolution”.
Even Mme Mao and her “Gang of Four”, the main perpetrators of “The Cultural Revolution”, gets only a passing mention.
As a biography, Wild Swans is a good book. But if you want to read a detailed history of “The Cultural Revolution” and of China at that time, read [b:Life and Death in Shanghai|537404|Life and Death in Shanghai|Nien Cheng|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348908435s/537404.jpg|619099] by [a:Nien Cheng|95739|Nien Cheng|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1338231155p2/95739.jpg] instead of this book. In my opinion, “Life and Death in Shanghai” is the best book written on “The Cultural Revolution” and also one of the best autobiographies ever written.
If you are going to read both the books (which I did), I suggest you start with “Wild Swans” first (which I didn’t), because if you read “Life and Death in Shanghai” before reading this book, chances are that you might end up appreciating “Wild Swans” much less than what you might have been predicting at the start.