From Publishers Weekly
Countless authors have chronicled the lives of people who survived the trials of 20th-century China, but few bring as much knowledge and style as Chin (Children of China: Voices from Recent Years) does. The esteemed Yale historian successfully combines an academic's interest in the big picture and a novelist's attention to the finest detail in limning the lives of the title characters of this excellent account. The history of the Chang sisters is heavy with episodes of injury and inhumanity, yet Chin has found affecting anecdotes of how the sisters fought to "make mirth" in the face of anguish and loss brought by imperial collapse, foreign invasion, civil and world war, revolution and famine. The first half of the book details the history of the prosperous Chang family from the turmoil of the Taiping Rebellion in the 1860s to the birth of Yuan-ho, the oldest sister, in 1907. From there, rather than writing conventional biographies of the four sisters, Chin mimics the structure of k'un-ch'i, a refined form of Chinese performance that showcases only a few scenes of an opera. In this style, drawing on voluminous family correspondence, diaries and interviews (all four sisters are still alive), Chin chooses each sister's most significant experience and expands upon it to depict their life-long struggle for constancy in the throes of violent political transition, and stirringly conveys the universal ability to endure and prevail despite adversity.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Born between the years 1907 and 1914, the four Chang sisters openly shared their earliest recollections of Chinese society and details of their aristocratic upbringing with the author, Annping Chin. It was on the occasion of a dinner at Chin's home that Annping first began a discourse with the youngest daughter, Ch'ung-ho, which would inspire her and lead her to chronicle the lives of these intellectual, artistic sisters. Their great-grandfather, Chang Shu-Sheng, brought honor and wealth to the family in the 1860s by defeating the Taiping rebels during China's civil war. From that time on, the Chang family wielded its power and influence with great consideration for those under their jurisdiction and maintained a keen eye for the importance of education and enlightenment. Chin provides a myriad of political and literary information on China from the late-nineteenth through the twentieth century, and the chapters that provide glimpses into the ancient rhythms of marriage and the household rituals are particularly fascinating. It is unfortunate, however, that many of the sisters' earliest memories are vague and translate dispassionately. Elsa GaztambideCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved