Tania in China by Ben Foster is an interesting book covering China from just before the formation of the communist party in Shanghai in 1921 through Mao’s death in 1976. Although it is fiction, the main characters of China’s history of this period are easily identifiable behind their fictious names.
I was looking for a book like this as I am an avid collector and reader of books by “Old China Hands.” These were mainly Americans many of whom were born in China around the beginning of the 20th century and went to America for college and then returned to China in the 20’s and 30’s. Others came to China to seek adventure, became journalists or wrote books as the 1st draft of history. Some of these writers are Pearl Buck, Edgar Snow, Agnes Smedley and Emily Hahn. There were professional historians such as Owen Lattimore and John Fairbanks as well as State Department officials like John Service and John Patton Davies. But these are all Americans and view the formation of China through their eyes. Where is a book in English as viewed by the Chinese? Mr. Foster does a very good job of telling this story mainly from the interactions of the Chinese leaders among themselves as well as Tania, a Russian who is supposed to guide them and inform the COMINTERN and Stalin.
I think the book succeeds in telling about the power struggles especially among the communists. My only complaint is the length of time going through all the battles between the KMT and the Communists.
What I also found interesting was the story of how Mao was able to hold onto power till his death by playing each of his rivals off each other. More or less replicating the power used by Stalin in the Soviet Union. All the while Mao being fearful of the 1st draft of history ruining his reputation as Khrushchev.
All in all, I would recommend this book to anyone wishing to learn more about how Mao’s Chinese Party came to rule China.
by NetGalley review
At +800 pages this is definitely a saga, so there is some rich details included, and readers will get to know a few of the characters very well. It's mostly engaging, and has some good dialog, nice descriptions, and drama. This will stick with anyone who tackles this impressive novel. Recommended.
by NetGalley review
Ben Foster was born in Beijing, later a 10-year exile to Inner Mongolia. He holds a Ph.D. in history from Cornell University, and has been a university professor for three decades. The American Philosophical Society, Cambridge, Yale, Bloomsbury, Wiley-Blackwell and several professional journals published his books and articles; one of them was named "Choice Outstanding Academic Book" in 1994.