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School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up
Gay describes pre-revolutionary China, Mao's ascendance, life under his regime, and "Post-Mao Turmoil and Judgments." Sidebars offer definitions. The writing is usually clear, and the author strives for objectivity, though she uncritically cites Jasper Becker's accounts of interviews with famine survivors, unsympathetically describes other events such as the Boxer Uprising, and never uses the term "totalitarian." The Pinyin style of transliteration (Qing, Beijing) jostles the Wade-Giles (Tzu Hsi, Peking). The thin time line omits key events (and includes Mao's second marriage, but not his other three). The number of children Mao had with He Zizhen is variously given as five and six, and, more seriously, Gay does not say that the figure of 2.5 million PLA troops in Korea, quoted in the book, is contested. Black-and-white photos are abundant if unremarkable. Several similar biographies exist, including Jonathan D. Spence's elegant Mao Zedong (Penguin, 2006), but Gay covers the key aspects of the story of Mao's China in an efficient, nonsensational way, including final mention of the man's positive contributions.
—Patricia D. LothropCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.