This is a fascinating history of 20th century China through the lives of three women, Jung Chang, her mother, and her grandmother. Of course it only tells their perspectives, but all are glimpses of China I have never seen so clearly. If I had picked up a history book of this era, I would have probably put it down, too frustrated by the Communist regime to continue. Through this narration, I cared about what happened to Jung Chang's family and the country and couldn't put it down (I listened to the audible version and read when sitting down.).
Briefly, Chang's grandmother, sold as a concubine, lives through the Japanese occupation of Manchuria, the Kuomintang, Mao's takeover of Manchuria, and follows the lives of her daughter and grandchildren. Her mother is raised on Mao's schools and propaganda and rises through the ranks of the Communist system with her husband, later to be renounced in the Cultural Revolution. Chang and her siblings struggle to learn and thrive during the Cultural Revolution, always challenging.
Jung Chang's writing is very straightforward (as is the narration), which is absolutely appropriate for this epic story already so full of extreme events and emotions. Lyricism is not needed and extra description would have made this book too long. Despite the length of this book (562 pages), there was never a sense of it being slow or too long. The narration by Joy Osmanski also generally moved swiftly and clearly (at 1.25 speed).