Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister: Three Women at the Heart of Twentieth-Century China

Knopf. Oct. 2019. 400p. illus. maps. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780451493507. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780451493514. HIST
Chang (Wild Swans; Empress Dowager Cixi) adds another title to her series of lively depictions of key figures in modern Chinese history. This time, the author focuses on three sisters from the Soong family: Ching-Ling, wife of Sun Yat-sen and eventual supporter of Communist China under Mao Zedong; May-Ling, who married Chiang Kai-Shek, leader of the nationalist movement in China and later Taiwan; and Ei-Ling, an adviser to Chiang Kai-shek as well as a businesswoman and political operative. Chang extensively quotes from correspondence, interviews, and contemporary sources, asserting that several of the large-scale political changes in China during the 1910s through the 1970s were set in motion owing to the personal and political struggles of the three sisters and their families. Some of these arguments will be debated by scholars, particularly those related to Chiang Kai-Shek’s capitulation to the Communists in exchange for the liberation of his son Chiang Ching-kuo.
VERDICT This accessible book will appeal to history buffs and biography fans in addition to those already familiar with Chang’s body of work.

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