Review Blog

Jul 22 2008

Revolution is not a dinner party by Ying Chang Compestine

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Puffin, 2008. ISBN 9780143303855, 244 pp
(Age 11+) This story of living through Mao's Cultural Revolution, relates one family's experiences, as they yearn for freedom and privacy. Ling lives with her family in Wuhan, comfortably off with her father a doctor at the local hospital and mother, a nurse. But when one part of their flat is given to Comrade Li, things change. Initially the changes occur to other people, but when the Red Guard seize their neighbours, taking them off for re-education, the reader knows that Ling's family will soon suffer as well.

Bullied at school, where she is not allowed to wear the red scarf of the workers, Ling manages to remain high spirited and defends herself against all accusations and intimidation, but when her mother becomes the victim, she learns to toe the line. The harsh treatment dolled out to the people of China who are not true believers in the eyes of a few radicals, becomes overwhelming, and just as the reader wants to cry 'enough', Mao dies, and the radicals are imprisoned.

A fascinating insight into the methods used by the Red Guard and their supporters, the story is involving as the reader gets to know just what happened during the Cultural Revolution through one family. Yang's easy style is effortless to read, and gives a great deal of background information which readers will absorb painlessly. Students of China will eagerly read this book.
Fran Knight

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