The Last Empress (eBook): Madame Chiang Kai-Shek and the Birth of Modern China
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Entertaining and masterly biography of Madame Chiang Kai-shek (1897-2003). Beautiful, powerful and sexy, Madame Chiang Kai-shek was at the centre of one of the great dramas of the twentieth century: the founding of modern China, beginning with a revolution that swept away more than 2,000 years of monarchy, followed by the Second World War and ending in eventual loss to the Communists and exile in Taipei. An epic historical tapestry, this beautifully wrought narrative revolves around a fascinating, manipulative woman and her family: her father, a peasant who raised himself into Shanghai society and sent his daughters to college in America at a time when Chinese women were purposefully kept uneducated; her mother, an unlikely aristocratic Methodist from the Mandarin class; her husband, a dogmatic warlord who became Generalissimo of China; one sister, the wife of Sun Yat-sen; the other, married to the seventy-fifth lineal descendant of Confucius; and her older brother, a financial genius. This family, along with their partners in marriage, was largely responsible for dragging China into the modern world. Soong May-ling, or Madame Chiang as she was known, who died in 2003 at the age of 106, is uniquely positioned at the heart of this story. As her husband came to represent the hopes of the West in the East, she acted as his adviser, English translator, secretary, and most loyal champion, finding herself on the world stage with Franklin D Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. A savvy politician, she remained a popular if controversial figure both at home and abroad. Hannah Pakula brilliantly narrates the life of this extraordinary woman - how she charmed the United States out of billions of dollars while remaining dedicated to her China, and how she managed to influence if not change the history of the twentieth century.
Weidenfeld & Nicolson