Revolution Is Not A Dinner Party book review

: Revolution is a Dinner Party is a work of historical fiction written by Ying Chang Compestine. The book is set during the Cultural Revolution in Wuhan, China. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Jumma)

Revolution Is Not A Dinner Party is a classic coming-of-age story with a historical twist. The story begins in the summer of 1972, from the perspective of nine-year-old Ling Chang, a witty, bold and non-traditional Chinese girl, much to her mother’s dismay. The highly rated book highlights the hardships of growing up in this hazardous time period, and the struggles of a young girl trying to overcome it all.

An award- winning book that is based on the experiences of Compestine, Revolution Is Not A Dinner Party constructs a raw and emotional journey of a regular girl in irregular circumstances.

In the beginning of the book, the author exposes the audience to the blissful life of an upper class family in China. Ling, the only child of two doctors, enjoys her comfortable lifestyle, including English lessons from her father. Ling is exposed to western culture at an early age and it becomes a significant part of her throughout the years.

The Cultural Revolution begins to significantly impact the Chang family when Comrade Li, a political officer, moves into the apartment. This sparks tension in the community as political officers during this time preached the teachings of Comrade Mao (the lead Chinese communist revolutionary) and also held anti bourgeoisie sentiments. Ling’s family holds many of the bourgeoisie values which creates several clashes in the community.

Ling’s mother figure in Revolution Is Not A Dinner Party is not her own mother, but her next door neighbor Mrs. Wong who is also part of the upper class community in Wuhan and continuously spoils Ling. The disappearance of Dr. Wong after a meeting with Comrade Li is especially concerning to Ling as she realizes Wuhan is not as safe as she thought.

The arrest of  Ling’s father begins Ling’s coming of age journey. Ling’s mother starts working late shifts at the hospital to support the family, and Ling is left alone to care for the house and do the daily chores. The pressure of the revolutionaries lead to a series of unfortunate events that leave the community fearful and in the dark for what’s to come.  

Through the voice of Ling Chang, the audience grasps the authenticity of life during the Cultural Revolution in China. Over the course of four years, Ling manages to grow and thrive even as she suffers more horrors than most people do in their lifetime.

As readers watch Ling grow evermore strong, they also experience the smells, sights and sounds of a nation struggling to find its identity. Revolution Is Not A Dinner Party  is an inspiring story of what one young person can do to fight for their beliefs and contains raw emotions with powerful messages that paint this time period in its true colors.

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