Chang's Wild Swans, published in 1991, remains among my favourite biographies. Her new book also stars a trio of extraordinary women, whose lives form the subject of the best-known modern Chinese fairytale-but they are little known to Western readers. Based on extensive first-hand research and interviews, as well as Chang's experience of growing up in Maoist China, it's the engrossing story of the three Soong sisters from Shanghai, each of whom played a crucial role in shaping modern China, witnessing war, revolution and seismic transformations along the way.
Ching-ling (Red Sister) married the founding father of the Chinese republic and later became Mao's vice-chair. May-ling (Little Sister) married Chiang Kai-shek, and became first lady of pre-Communist Nationalist China, and a political figure in her own right; while Ei-ling (Big Sister) was chief advisor to Chiang. All three enjoyed tremendous privilege and fame, but also endured constant attacks and mortal danger as well as heartbreak and despair. And the relationship between the three sisters was highly charged, particularly once they embraced opposing political camps. As well as being gripped by story of the sisters, I learned so much about 20th-century China.
Dopeworld: Adventures in Drug Lands
"To its credit, Dopeworld is nothing if not ambitious. Vorobyov states as much himself, describing it bombastically as ‘true crime, gonzo, social, historical memoir meets fucked up travel book’. That is a lot to cram in. If sometimes he drops the ball (the..."
— The Spectator