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There are books you want to read a second time and Wild Swans is one of them. I read the story soon after its publication, back in 1991, but gave it to someone on loan and never saw it again. I tell myself the recipient couldn’t bear to part with it. However, I recently treated myself to this replacement and am so glad I did.

Still banned in China because of criticism of Mao Zedong, the true story of Jung Chan’s mother and maternal grandmother plunges the reader into the pain and horror of China’s troubled history during the twentieth century. A sobering read, its importance cannot be exaggerated in helping us understand a land which increasingly reaches into every aspect of our own lives.

At over 500 pages, it is a serious history that manages to read like a historical thriller. If I share with you its opening lines, you will see what I mean:

“At the age of fifteen my grandmother became the concubine of a warlord general, the police chief of a tenuous national government of China. The year was 1924 and China was in chaos.”

You might like to add it to that Christmas wish-list for Santa. Or simply treat yourself.