Summary and book reviews of The Long March by Sun Shuyun

The Long March

The True History of Communist China's Founding Myth

By Sun Shuyun

The Long March
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Hardcover: Jun 2007,
    288 pages.
    Paperback: May 2008,
    304 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team

Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

The Long March is Communist China’s founding myth, the heroic tale that every Chinese child learns in school. Seventy years after the historical march took place, Sun Shuyun set out to retrace the Marchers’ steps and unexpectedly discovered the true history behind the legend. The Long March is the stunning narrative of her extraordinary expedition.

The facts are these: in 1934, in the midst of a brutal civil war, the Communist party and its 200,000 soldiers were forced from their bases by Chiang Kaishek and his Nationalist troops. After that, truth and legend begin to blur: led by Mao Zedong, the Communists set off on a strategic retreat to the distant barren north of China, thousands of miles away. Only one in five Marchers reached their destination, where, the legend goes, they gathered strength and returned to launch the new China in the heat of revolution.

As Sun Shuyun journeys to remote villages along the Marchers’ route, she interviews the aged survivors and visits little-known local archives. She uncovers shocking stories of starvation, disease, and desertion, of ruthless purges ordered by party leaders, of the mistreatment of women, and of thousands of futile deaths. Many who survived the March report that their suffering continued long after the “triumph” of the revolution, recounting tales of persecution and ostracism that culminated in the horrific years of the Cultural Revolution.

What emerges from Sun’s research, her interviews, and her own memories of growing up in China is a moving portrait of China past and present. Sun finds that the forces at work during the days of the revolution—the barren, unforgiving landscape; the unifying power of outside threats from foreign countries; Mao’s brilliant political instincts and his use of terror, propaganda, and ruthless purges to consolidate power and control the population—are the very forces that made China what it is today.

The Long March is a gripping retelling of an amazing historical adventure, an eye-opening account of how Mao manipulated the event for his own purposes, and a beautiful document of a country balanced between legend and the truth.

1. DRAIN THE POND TO CATCH THE FISH

I’m sending you to the Army my man,
You must see the reason why
The Revolution is for us.
I’m sending you to do or die.


Here’s a towel I've embroidered
With all my love to say:
Revolution for ever!
The Party you must not betray!



The song pierced the silence of Shi Village, which nestled at the foot of a hill covered in thick bamboo groves. It was mid–October, 1935, in Jiangxi Province, southern China. The autumn harvest was already in and the land surrounding the village was yellow with the stubble of rice stalks, but some fields stood as if wasted, with grass sprouting in the dried–out paddy, already turning brown. A few water buffalo were plodding home, only stopping when they came to their favorite place, the village pond, where they drank, ducks and geese swam, children bathed, women washed their clothes, and men asked one another about their day. Nearby stood the giant camphor tree, whose overhanging ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse

Readers brought up on the history of the Long March, will be riveted from the opening words. For those of us brought up in a Western culture who know of the Long March only as a vague piece of history, it will take a little longer to get into; but within a chapter, two at the most, readers with the remotest interest in history will be fully engrossed in the first person accounts of foot soldiers such as Woman Wang, Soldier Huang, Orderly Liu, Propagandist Wu, Fighter Li, whose stories Sun Shuyun so ably interweaves with archival research and official history.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Full Review Members Only (913 words).

Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

Her interviews with veterans are among the book's highlights, but just as fascinating as the interviews and archival research is her travel through China.

The Spectator (UK)

[Sun] has written an affecting and insightful book, one that not only illuminates China’s recent past but also manages to throw some light on its equally murky present.

Financial Times (UK)

A mixture of engaging lively travel writing and impressive historical reconstruction . . . Offers a rewarding journey into the experience of people, within living memory, who needed endurance beyond the comprehension of most of us.

The Guardian (UK)

A beautifully told story of one of the great legends of modern China . . . utterly compelling reading.

The Asian Review of Books - Kerry Brown

This is not a book that aims to debunk or deconstruct what seems to be a settled, accepted part of history. In some ways, Sun almost retreats into a resignation to the fact that the 'true' history of the march is almost unavailable now, and the best route to understanding it is through the dwindling voices of those that still survive. Those who seek to know what really happened at Zunyi, or Luding Bridge, or any of the other key moments along the epic journey must search elsewhere. To those who want to relive the adventures of this grand epic, then this is a readable and accessible account.

Reader Reviews
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

The Long March

The 1934-35 massive military retreat of the Red Armies from the opposing Nationalist Party army was not one march but several, as various different Communist armies escaped from the south to the north and west. The best known of these is the journey taken by the 86,000 members of the First Army who started out from Jiangxi province in October 1934 and traveled approximately 6,000 miles (9,500 kilometers) over about 370 days (about 16 miles a day) through some of the ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked The Long March, try these:

  • Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress jacket

    Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

    by Dai Sijie

    Published Feb 2013

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    From within the hopelessness and terror of one of the darkest passages in human history, Dai Sijie has fashioned a beguiling and unexpected story about the resilience of the human spirit, the wonder of romantic awakening and the magical power of storytelling.

  • Indian Summer jacket

    Indian Summer

    by Alex Von Tunzelmann

    Published Feb 2013

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    The stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, liberated 400 million people from the British Empire. With the loss of India, its greatest colony, Britain ceased to be a superpower, and its king ceased to sign himself Rex Imperator. This is the remarkable story of the events surrounding this transition.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member


Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: A Man Called Ove
    A Man Called Ove
    by Fredrik Backman
    Reading A Man Called Ove was like having Christmas arrive early. Set in Sweden, this debut novel is ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Search
    by Geoff Dyer
    All hail the independent publisher! In May 2014, Graywolf Press brought two of long-revered British ...
  • Book Jacket
    Mrs. Hemingway
    by Naomi Wood
    Naomi Wood's latest novel, Mrs. Hemingway, is a fictionalized biography covering in turn writer...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The City
by Dean Koontz

Published Jul. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  119Tomlinson Hill:
    Chris Tomlinson
  2.  39The Arsonist:
    Sue Miller

All Discussions

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

E C H A Silver L

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.