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Becoming Madam Mao

(3 customer reviews)


Author Anchee Min
Rights Uk & Comm ex Canada
ISBN 9780749040505
Pages 340
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This is the epic tale of one woman’s life – of her journey from poverty to notoriety, from the slums to the Forbidden City. Hers is a story of defiance and determination, politics and passion – this is her quest to become a heroine.


Becoming Madame Mao is a powerful novel tracing the story of China’s first lady from her youth as the unwanted daughter of a prostitute, her time as a struggling and later as a renown actress and ultimately her political downfall at the death of her husband. Evocative, poetic and mythic – Anchee Min’s book is an attempt to reinstate the position of Madame Mao, a woman who has been virtually written out of the history books.


This is a fascinating insight into the intimacies and psychology of the woman responsible for the Cultural Revolution. Hers is a personal life filled with rejection and betrayal from both family and friends – insecurities and paranoia ultimately prove to be accurate as Madame Mao’s world comes crashing down around her.

What The Critics Said

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  1. Allyson Johnson

    ‘This is an impressionist version of the life of the woman who became Jiang Qing, Madame Mao. The point of view shifts back and forth from within the mind of Jiang Qing, to the view of a bystander near to the action, to the view of a historian recounting from a distance in time as well as space. The effect is like a film which uses a hand-held camera with a zoom lens – you get a sense of perspective and detail at the same time. Not every writer could pull this off, but Anchee Min does it.

    This is a small book, and it assumes that the reader is fairly familiar with the historical drama of Mao’s China which Jiang Qing helped direct and choreograph. It is an intimate book, totally focussed on the central character, with the other elements of history and fate revolving around her.

    Anchee Min succeeds in creating a character for Jiang Qing which accounts for much that seems inexplicable in her many-faceted career as she is in turn the unvalued daughter of an alcoholic peasant , a film starlet, a soldier, a wife and mother, a director of film and stage, and ultimately a dictator whose absolute power corrupted her absolutely. An easy, informative, and absorbing read.’

  2. Harriet Klausner

    ‘The concubine does not even want a daughter, especially one who rejects tradition by refusing to bind her feet. So the teenage Yunhe eventually flees her oppressive family and what she believes is backwater customs to join an opera troupe. She quickly gained fame as a Shanghai actress named Lan Ping. Later she meets, falls in love with, and marries Mao Zedeng, who renames her Jiang Ching.
    Madame Mao supports her spouse during the revolutionary period when they spend time in hiding in the mountains until the Japanese lose. She accompanies him when the Communists take control of China. Madame Mao is part of the inner circle of advisers to her spouse, but constantly falls in and out of favor. When Mao dies in 1976, she makes a play to replace him only to lose.’

  3. Suza Francina

    ‘I have just finished reading this riveting novel. It never ceases to amaze me how we human beings spend our whole life playing out the scenes of our childhood. The psychological insight that Anchee Min brings to the life of Madame Mao may help us have compassion for even the most horrid personality. Highly recommended for any woman determined to find her own voice!’
    Suza Francina
    –, author, activist, yoga teacher.

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