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Daughter of the River: An Autobiography


Daughter of the River: An Autobiography

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    Available in PDF Format | Daughter of the River: An Autobiography.pdf | English
    Hong Ying(Author)
The autobiography of a young girl growing up in Mao's China. Hong Ying grew up in a slum on the banks of the Yangtze, an area permanently veiled in fog and steeped in superstition. Life was precarious and Hong Ying, the youngest of the six children, grew up afraid that she would be condemned to a life of carrying sand and emptying chamber pots. Gradually, Hong Ying began to try and solve some of the mysteries which had seemed to surround her early life: a stalker who had followed her since she was a child, a VD record in her father's file, and a persistent feeling that there was something strange about her birth. Among her discoveries, Hong Ying learnt that her mother was once married to a Triadman who had died in a labour camp as a counter-revolutionary, while her father, now a blind sailor, had several times barely escaped with his life during the civil war. Under the corrupt rule, her mother had taken extreme measures to keep the children alive while several of her relatives starved to death during the Great Famine. Moreover, Hong Ying's stalker turned out to have an astoundingly close connection with her. After the tragic deaths of both her first lover and her first child, Hong Ying decided she had to take control of her own life: she left home and worked hard to become a published poet and a novelist. After the events in Tian'anmen Square, she left China to live in London.

Spanning the Great Famine through to the Cultural Revolution and beyond, this exceptional and totally absorbing book is not only a testament to the youth of China who took fate in their own hands by marching on Tiananmen Square in April of 1989, but is also a complex--yet at the same time somehow disturbingly simple--memoir of a young girl growing up amid a poverty and squalor that we, in our cosy homes with food on the table and light and warmth, can barely envisage.

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Book details

  • PDF | 288 pages
  • Hong Ying(Author)
  • Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; New edition edition (23 April 1999)
  • English
  • 9
  • Biography
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Review Text

  • By Traceyred on 17 August 2016

    I must admit that it has been some while since I read this book (late 1990's!) but I remember at the time being totally gripped by it. I felt a strong connection by the very fact that I was born in the same era as the writer (1960's) and the differences between my upbringing here in the UK to that of the author gave me a sense of my own privilege along with immense sympathy for my peers in China. I am writing this review because I have just bought Wild Swans by Jung Chang on Audible and from reading the reviews it jolted my memory into thinking of Daughter of the River. Having seen some "not great" reviews, I felt compelled to say how much I enjoyed reading this book. It kept me gripped throughout and opened my eyes to a world I had previously been unaware of but found fascinating.

  • By Michael Gross on 4 February 2011

    After reading K: The Art of Love, I became very curious about its author and decided to read her autobiography next. It didn't exactly tell me how she came to write K, nor how she came to write at all, but it turned out interesting nonetheless.Hong Ying was born at Chongquing in 1962, at the end of a major famine that hit China as a result of population growth and mismanagement of the agricultural production. Thus, her novelized recollection of her childhood, culminating in discoveries about herself that she makes on her 18th birthday, could have easily produced one of those misery memoirs that have been so epidemic in recent years.What saves it from descending that road is the curiously detached voice of the author who never seems to pity herself or the other protagonists. She describes hunger, violence and the regular sight of dead bodies floating down the river with equal emotional detachment, making the reader wonder whether this is a natural defence that children develop when they grow up in horrific circumstances, or whether there is an Asperger gene or two at play. For a teenage girl, our heroine cares remarkably little about what other people think. She sometimes even muses about her own detachment and aloofness.Driven by her quest to solve the mysteries of her past, this story is quite gripping, even though the signposting often gives the events away beforehand. Most of all, it makes readers born at around the same time in a different place (like me, for example), consider ourselves very lucky indeed. What we now need from her is a sequel telling us how she escaped from the life of misery that could have become her destiny, and how she became a writer recognized around the world.

  • By Luc REYNAERT on 11 October 2005

    Hong Ying's biographical novel gives an in depth picture of 'normal' life in China after World War II with its 'hypocrite socialism' and its terrible famines.It is a story of a harsh struggle for survival: unabated hunger, nerve-racking promiscuity, lack of privacy, bitter loneliness, lies and denunciations.It is also a tale about growing up in a 'strange' family, becoming an adult, discovering sexuality and about the search for one's own roots.This book shows poignantly the real and direct impact of governmental political and social decisions on people's daily life. It is not less than a 'personal' historical sketch with a genuine human touch.This magisterial novel is bathed in a magical subdued atmosphere. It is written like most 'Schubertian' music in a minor key-note.A must read, not only for Chinese scholars.

  • By on 29 May 2000

    This is a moving and emotional book. It's style is slightly distanced and austere, but the reality of the situations Ying describes is sure to disturb. Hong Ying tells not only her own story of lonliness and poverty, but speaks for some of the poorest people in China at the same time. This poverty provides a backdrop to her often horrific life, which includes a description of an abortion without anaesthetic - not for the faint hearted. Dwelling mostly on her eighteenth year - the year she finally finds out why she is marginalised within her own family - it rushes towards Tian'anmen square, 1989 and leaves the reader in the knowledge that she was there when the massacre struck. It is inevitable to compare this book with Wild Swans by Jung Chang, but Daughter of the River is a darker tale, although definitely worth reading.

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