Chinese/ Japanese lit · Non-Fiction.

The Long March by Sun Shuyun

Sun Shuyun, author of The Long March.
Sun Shuyun, author of The Long March.

This book is fascinating because it talks about the 1934 Long March, in which 200,000 Communist soldiers walked 8,000 miles after being forced out of their base by Chiang Kaishek.

This book is expertly and thoroughly researched. Shuyun spoke to the survivors of the March, and uses her sources to the best advantage.
This book took me a long time to read. It is not its length that is a problem. (It is a measly 279 pages.) I just don’t think its the sort of book which can be rushed and forgotten about in a few days of indifferent reading. Shuyun doesn’t just write a non-fiction book full of names which you can’t empathize with or care about. The way she describes the trials and tribulations of the soldiers on the March is just so real. She shows great kindness towards the survivors who she interviews, and for that this book could be a valuable tool for anybody who needed good source material if they happened to be studying Chinese Communism in History from GCSE up to university level. It brings to life all the hardship – starvation, death, rape, murder, grief and disappointment – which the soldiers experienced on the March.

With the way in which Shuyun explains the back story of the Long March, it shows just how powerful Mao was. He had absolote control over thousands of soldiers. They suffered badly during the March, but seeing as many had come from dire poverty and joined the Red Army with the promise of eating well and having a good life, it gives basis to their unwavering devotion to the Red Army through all the hardship.

Many perished on the long journey, and I think with this book Shuyun finally gives a voice to an event of which before it was just numbers – dates, death tolls, distances. Through the astringent glossing over of what truly happened (Mao was powerful, remember?) those who died weren’t truly remembered. Finally, over 70 years later, they are given a voice.

MY RATING: 4.5 / 5.

Mao Zedong.
Mao Zedong.
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