Becoming Madame Mao: A Novel by Anchee Min (PDF)



Ebook Info

  • Published: 2001
  • Number of pages: 355 pages
  • Format: PDF
  • File Size: 38.90 MB
  • Authors: Anchee Min


From the national bestselling author of Red Azalea: “Extraordinary . . . Min lets [Madame Mao] be seen as never before. Bottom line: riveting” (People). In a sweeping, erotically charged story, Anchee Min creates a finely nuanced portrait of one of the most fascinating, and vilified, women of the twentieth century. Madame Mao is almost universally known as the “white-boned demon”—ambitious, vindictive, and cruel—whose bid to succeed her husband led to the death of millions. But Anchee Min’s story begins with a young girl named Yunhe, the unwanted daughter of a concubine who ignored her mother’s pleas and refused to have her feet bound. It was the first act of rebellion for this headstrong, beautiful, and charismatic girl, who would find fame as an actress in Shanghai, and later fall in love and marry Mao Zedong. The great revolutionary leader proved to be an inattentive husband with a voracious appetite for infidelity, but the couple stayed together through the Communist victory, the disastrous Great Leap Forward, and the chaos of the Cultural Revolution. Min uses historical facts and her lush, penetrating psychological imagination to take us beyond the myth of the person who so greatly influenced an entire generation of Chinese. The result is a complex portrait of a woman who railed against the confines of her culture, whose deep-seated insecurities propelled her to reinvent herself constantly, and whose ambition was matched only by her ferocious, never-to-be-fulfilled need to be loved. “Sheer poetry.” —The Wall Street Journal “A magnificent book: consequential, significant, beautiful . . . The true heroine is writer Anchee Min.” —San Diego Union-Tribune

User’s Reviews

Reviews from Amazon users which were colected at the time this book was published on the website:

⭐Anita, my young friend from Hangzhou, tells me that Mao “is like an uncle,” a paternal figure of wisdom and kindliness. His last wife, Jiang Qing? She is “like the devil. All Chinese think so.” Mao’s spirit must be pleased. It is, after all, what he wanted. Thirty years after his death, his fat, bald, lunar visage still looms benignly over Tiananmen Square. He is still the First Citizen, still beloved, still a fatherly figure, revered if not adored, at least for now.Jiang Qing was evil, unquestionably so. Yet, for all the evil she did or that was attributed to her, for all the chaos, disruption and destruction that can be traced to her wasteful, mean, insane policies, for all her vindictiveness, jealousy and anger, for every loathsome attribute she had, for every death she caused directly and indirectly, for every family ruined and every person tortured and persecuted, she was, and is, a useful evil. While Mao still breathed, she was useful to him. In death, she continues to be useful to the Communist Party and the Chinese people, at least the ones who still love Mao. Whatever she was in life, her dark ghost looms large and menacing, out-Herods Herod and draws the blackness from the shade of Mao. He sparkles while she rots.Anchee Min’s “Becoming Madam Mao” is an outrageous fiction. Min, who is bold enough to attempt literature in an adopted language (and audacious enough to do it well), redoubled her boldness and took on the task of creating a novel about Mao’s most despicable consort. In prose that alternates from third person to first, she attempts to take us into the mind of this strange and devious woman, illuminate her times, and provide a human dimension to the “white boned demon,” this woman who shared Mao’s bed, mothered one of his children and became the instigator of one of the most disastrous experiments in societal manipulation, the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Min, by alternating persons from third to first, balances her fictional portrait, narrating events from the outside, then changing to the first person to view situations from the perspective of Madam Mao.The story unfolds in a series of fascinating vignettes, each one bringing us through the phases of Jiang Qing’s life from her brutal and impoverished infancy to her final confrontation with her daughter, and her suicide. The Jiang Qing of Min’s novel is a woman who creates and re-creates herself, insinuates the lives of people – men – to advance, first, her acting career, then her career in the Communist Party and in Politics. Born into poverty, the unwanted child of a concubine who has been expelled from her man’s home, Jiang’s early life is filled with uncertainty and misery. Even as a small child, she can’t be cowed, however. Much to her mother’s consternation, she refuses to have her feet bound, pulls the bindings from them, and won’t be bound again. She finally finds some comfort in the home of her grandparents, where she’s taught the basics of Chinese opera and learns to dream of a life on the stage. Eventually, she runs away and pursues her dream, only to find herself constrained by her choice of men and by the machinations of the KuoMinTang government. She becomes a Communist, less out of ideological conviction than out of a desire to resist the KMT and to follow her friends.Her career on the stage faltering, she leaves Shanghai, sets her sites on Mao, follows him to his mountain lair, joins his forces, meets him, and, Mao being fond of actresses, she seduces him. She’s learned much from her affairs in Shanghai. Studied and deliberate in what she does, every move and word is calculated. She manipulates well, forms her alliances, cajoles Mao into abandoning his mad third wife, and wheedles him into a dubious marriage. She is at his side as he pushes on to victory, but Mao is fickle and in time his ardor cools. A manipulator herself, she reads his moods and senses the danger that estrangement from Mao can bring.Jiang strives for security, for power, for acknowledgment of her place at Mao’s side, as his wife, partner and advisor with power of her own and a mission to fill. Her chance finally comes when Mao turns against his own Party apparatus and she joins him in the mayhem by reinventing herself as the mistress of culture. Vindictive and jealous by nature, loathing the apparatchiks in the cadre who have ignored and insulted her throughout the years, she unleashes chaos and strife with her Red Guards, tramples the educational system, and annihilates the lively arts, literature, and the stage. Resistance shattered, all culture is ultimately reduced to her eight exemplary Maoist operas, education becomes nothing more than indoctrination in the Cult of Mao. She turns her talons on everyone, motivated by jealousy and vindictiveness, indifferent to suffering (except her own), and consumed by her pathological obsession with Mao, less love than a fixation that overwhelms and obscures every villainy, every vice, every treachery, and every atrocity, no matter how monstrous.Min’s Jiang Qing is not a creature who cackles with evil. She slips into it gradually, fixed on her obsessions with power and with Mao, hardly noticing as she does. We like her as a teenager, and as a young actress. We even like her as she joins Mao and seduces him. Gradually, however, as she ages and her life becomes fixed on her obsessions and her vindictiveness, our intimacy with this appalling woman is almost too much to bear. Min brings her almost too close.Historical fiction is difficult enough when dealing with the ancient past. Critics, forgetting that it’s fiction, will carp about minor deviations from factual events. When writing about characters who are still in living memory, however, the writer cannot avoid controversy. She may trample on the emotions of some who have an investment in the character, and may be accused of obscuring or excusing the acts of a monster, glorifying a mediocrity, or in other ways exaggerating or misleading. Every omission or error will be treated as a major imperfection. Historical fiction, however, is fiction based on history, not history. The fiction writer is looking for a kind of emotional truth which may not be conveyed by a linear relation of facts. If Min is to be criticized for imagining Jiang’s thoughts, then Shakespeare was equally guilty and should be criticized for virtually all his histories, as was Marlowe, Tolstoy and Solzhenitsyn. Art imagines life. History tries to record it.Whatever can be said for Jiang Qing, in history or fiction she is a character whose self-creation as the very incarnation of chaos and evil is both fightening and fascinating. Min’s portrait of her is skillfully drawn, an intimate and cathartic journey through Jiang’s life that in the end leaves us appalled not only at her but at the evil we humans can do, shaken by the stark realization that only a thin wall separates us from them, that people like Jiang are less exotic and extraordinary than common, banal and ordinary. This is no elegant evil, profound or even clever in its machinations. Jiang is the bitter and angry neighborhood shrew, adorned with Mao’s blessing, given a country to vandalize, a culture to destroy.”Becoming Madam Mao” was one book I could not put down. Read it, then read a history. Anchee Min provides a list of her sources, and invites us to go further. For now, however, I’ll settle for acquiring more of Ms. Min’s books and reading more of her remarkable stories.

⭐This story is incredible. Ms. Min has blown me away yet again. She has done what I earlier considered impossible: she inspired feelings of pity, and feeling, for a woman who is commonly called a demon. It’s true, Madame Mao was a power hungry, evil woman who could dispose of human value or human life as though she were ordering lunch. She incited chaos in order to rule by fear. She was a legend of terror in her own time. But, through Ms. Min, she has become something else – a woman. A woman mistreated as a child, a woman heartbroken by men she loved, a foolish woman who made foolish mistakes, and a woman who could not forgive. She was an actress, one who dreamed she was born for a role so big she would fill the stage and be the only visible character. In the end, Madame Mao was just a disheartened but indomitable spirit, who rose to power through crushing others beneath her, because she believed it was her right to rise.Anchee Min’s novelistic prowess delights and astonishes yet again.Regarding the complaints about the back-and-forth between first and third person, I was not bothered by it. I felt it was rather clever, in order to allow the reader to get in her brain as well as hearing her speak. Everyone lies to themselves, everyone twists their thoughts to something less or more when they edit them for speech. I think this “irritating” quality held true to the general actions of mankind, which is what made Madame Mao’s story so real and personal.Other reviewers have noted that in terms of dialogue, if you turned this book in to your English teacher in high school, you’d get it back covered in red ink and a fat black F. My response would be that Anchee Min is a published author. She has the right to write however she pleases – because she’s earned the right to do so. Also I think the cultural difference is not taken into account. In many books written by Chinese about China, this style of speaking is utilized because that’s what’s normal in Chinese speech.An excellent read. Please note that this is indeed a novel, and not straight History.

⭐Interesting as a historical novel about someone I have been fascinated with but didn’t particularly like. The author seems to have researched her subject well. It would be quite fascinating to know where some of the juicier tidbits came from and whether they were real and well-known to certain historians, or whether they were the author’s speculations. A stumbling block for me throughout was the continual a jumping back an forth from first to third person and back. It was dizzying and I never got used to it. I have no idea what point the author was trying to make but it didn’t work for me.

⭐The author definitely gives Madame Mao’s perspective, so she seems driven and lonely but not a “white boned demon.” Very little is mentioned of the executions she ordered, and I expected to read Madam Mao’s rationalization and how she felt progressively from the first and last ruthless eliminations of her enemies. The historical content was woven well into the narrative and one does get to see things as Madame Mao did–a difficult thing for the author to accomplish with such a character, especially having lived through it. I was almost sympathetic to her craving to be loved and recognized but the truthful, almost matter of fact telling of the story was well balanced and revealing.

⭐A fascinating insight into the woman who was married to Chairman Mao. The descriptions of her life, and her thoughts, both of herself and others was intriguing and very interesting. The book was beautifully written, and really drew in the reader. There were just enough hints of how this woman would turn out, but at the same time making one feel some sympathy for her. An excellent read for those interested in modern history.

⭐Interesting book but I don’t like the way it is wrtiten, jumping from first to third person sometimes in same paragraph. Also difficult sometimes to know who is speaking, and irritating to read as there are no spaces between sentences.

⭐I couldn’t get along with the style of writing at all, flipping between the first and third person, and I simply couldn’t engage with the title character at all. Gave up about half way through. I prefer to enjoy what I’m reading.

⭐At first this story swept me up but as soon as the main character meets Mao the pace slackers, the tale becomes far less interesting and the history patronising. Others may enjoy, it just wasn’t for me.

⭐An excellent read. Quite melodramatic at times, but fun and informative! A recommended read for anyone interested in the life of Jiang Qing, or anyone who enjoys a dramatic romance.


Free Download Becoming Madame Mao: A Novel in PDF format
Becoming Madame Mao: A Novel PDF Free Download
Download Becoming Madame Mao: A Novel 2001 PDF Free
Becoming Madame Mao: A Novel 2001 PDF Free Download
Download Becoming Madame Mao: A Novel PDF
Free Download Ebook Becoming Madame Mao: A Novel

Previous articleMakers of Modern Asia by Ramachandra Guha (PDF)
Next articleVichy France: Old Guard and New Order, 1940-1944 by Robert O. Paxton (PDF)