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27 March 2010

Book review ~ Chinese Whispers: A Journey into Betrayal by Jan Wong

Chinese Whispers: Searching for Forgiveness in Beijing Chinese Whispers: Searching for Forgiveness in Beijing by Jan Wong

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another random pick in the library that I enjoyed. Having read quite a lot of books about China's history, it was really interesting and different to read a book set in modern day China. My book has a different title to that on Goodreads, so I apologise for the conflict.

Jan Wong has returned to China, 33 years after she willingly reported a fellow student to the Chinese authorities for wanting to leave the country. Jan was a 'starry-eyed Maoist' and paid no thought to what would happen to Yin as a result of her actions. Yin disappeared.

Jan returns to Beijing in 2006 set on finding Yin and apologising. Or at least finding out if she survived. Jan is amazed by how Beijing has changed and how reluctant people are to reflect on the past. Jan finally discovers the truth about Yin as her one month trip to Beijing is coming to an end.

I have to point out that this book took me nearly two months to read, and it isn't very long. I'm not sure if I was going through a slight 'readers block' or whether it was actually quite difficult to get through. Let's just say I wasn't getting the urge to rush home and pick it up every evening.

In my head I really enjoyed it. Having visited Beijing myself in 2008 I actually knew some of the places she was talking about. I definitely knew all the ins and outs of the Olympics and how much the city was ruled by the games. It's fascinating how much Beijing has changed and a lot of it purely because of the Olympics. Whole hutong areas were knocked down for the games; factories were closed down, cars banned from driving. I saw the city at the height of the Olympics and they had managed to make the city seem clean, new and perfect, you don't realise what they had to do to get to that stage until you read a book like this.

If you love books about China and its history then you will like this, I'm sure. I actually didn't care very much for the Yin part of the story, its Jan's descriptions of the city and its history that make this book worthwhile. She also has a witty, relaxed style which is refreshing. I'd be interested to know if others find it slow going.

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  1. I'd like to try it after the fast read I just finished, set in the East too. What is the name of the book on Goodreads?

  2. Just recommended it to you! It's still called Chinese Whispers, but 'Searching for Forgiveness in Beijing' rather than 'a Journey into Betrayal.' Look forward to hearing your thoughts!


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