China’s Cultural Revolution
Frances Wood, Hand-grenade Practice in Peking
China in 1975 was a strange, undiscovered country, still half-mad from Mao’s Cultural Revolution, when young Frances Wood boarded a plane in London to study for a year in Peking. Virtually closed to outsiders for the preceding decade, China was just beginning to make tentative moves towards the outside world when Frances and her fellow students were driven through the dark silent countryside to their new quarters at the Foreign Languages Institute. Throughout the following year in an extraordinary Alice-in-Wonderland world where ‘education’ consisted of shovelling rubble, hand-grenade practice and cripplingly tedious ideological lectures, Frances never lost her sense of humour. Based on the letters she wrote home, Hand-grenade Practice in Peking is both affecting and hilarious.
Madeleine Thien, Do Not Say We Have Nothing
In Do Not Say We Have Nothing, Madeleine Thien brings to life one of the most significant political regimes of the 20th century and its traumatic legacy with intimacy, wit and moral complexity.
In Canada in 1991, ten-year-old Marie and her mother invite a guest into their home: a young woman, Ai-Ming, who has fled China in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square protests. She tells Marie the story of her family in revolutionary China, from the crowded teahouses in the first days of Chairman Mao’s ascent to the Shanghai Conservatory in the 1960s and the events leading to the Beijing demonstrations of 1989. It’s a history of revolutionary idealism, music and silence, in which three musicians struggle to remain loyal to one another and to the music they have devoted their lives to during China’s Cultural Revolution. Their fates reverberate through the years, with lasting consequences for Ai-Ming – and for Marie.
Madeleine Thien was born in Vancouver and has been the recipient of numerous awards in her native Canada and further afield. Do Not Say We Have Nothing is her fourth novel.
Too Much of a Good Thing
I see Frances Wood in that great tradition of intrepid British women explorers, like Mary Kingsley and Gertrude Bell. She sets out for China in 1975, when the Cultural Revolution is still going...Read more