This one’s for you if you’re interested in a very easy to read account of Chinese history.

Wild Swans is written as a personal history of 3 generations of women in the author’s family. According to an interview in 2013 in The Telegraph, it became the best selling non fiction paperback ever. I found her comment about the progression of the West particularly interesting in light of recent discussions of free speech.

“Dr Xia was not keen on taking medicine, insisting that the way to good health was a sound body…treatment…cured one part of the body while doing damage to another.” p52

“the barbarity of the age old customs, cloaked in ‘tradition’ and even ‘morality’ enraged her” p97

“The need to obtain authorisation for an unspecified ‘anything’ was to become a fundamental element of Chinese Communist rule. It also meant that people learnt not to take any action on their own initiative.” p158

“The party’s all round intrusion into people’s lives was the very point of the process known as thought reform. Mao wanted not only external discipline but the total subjection of all thoughts, large or small.” p193

“Spending a Saturday” came to mean making love because that was the day that married couples were allowed to be together. p228

“Mao feared that any independent thinking might lead to less than total obedience to him.” p233

There were 3 interesting quotes about work ethic in a communist society. “How much work was done did not matter because the produce now belonged to the state, and was completely unrelated to the peasants’ lives.” p273. “we frequently spent 10 hours in the fields doing a job which could have been done in five” p527. “The virtual absence of any chance of a better future and near total immobility for anyone born a peasant took the incentive out of the pursuit of knowledge” p532

“Many thought…that the famine was caused by natural disasters” p287

“I was incapable of rational thinking. We were so cowed and contorted by fear and indoctrination that to deviate from the path laid down by Mao would have been inconceivable.” p378

Mme Mao “We would rather have socialist weeds than capitalist crops”, “We want illiterate working people not educated spiritual aristocrats” p592

“it was the very tolerance of opposition, of protests, that kept the West progressing.” p602

Mao “ruled by getting people to hate each other…Mao had managed to turn people into the ultimate weapon of dictatorship. That was why under him there was no real equivalent of the KGB in China.” p633