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The first is Ei-ling, who under the patronage of the nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek, became the richest woman in pre-communist China. Schooling in the United States added an independent streak to the respective sisters, a trait that would be instrumental in fashioning their later lives.
Returning from overseas each daughter fell into the orbit of men who would rise to be dominate figures in twentieth century China: Sun Yat-Sen, Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek. For the three the outcomes of these relationships were not always congenial. In one event Chang writes of how Sun Yet-sen fled a besieged Canton by using Ching-ling as a diversion, the middle Soong sister barely escaping with her life while her husband—they had married in —found safety.
The result: while their relationships were sometimes fraught, the three sisters remained committed, if not always close, to each other throughout their lives. One reservation I have—admittedly borne from my own ignorance of Chinese history—is whether, to raise the significance of her lead characters, Chang has embellishing the story of the Soongs a criticism that has shadowed Changs previous work on the Empress Dowager Cixi.
Perhaps it is a case of reader beware while accepting that even if half of what Chang writes is accurate—and here one should acknowledge that she carries a strong academic pedigree A PhD in linguistics , her book is well referenced and Chang has authored numerous other books on Chinese history—the story of the Soongs is extraordinary.
Gladwell, often described and at times dismissed as a pop-scientist or armchair philosopher, is also criticised because arguments laid out in his books are anecdotally driven. Those who mostly got it wrong were those who met Hitler, and those who never met Hitler — such as Churchill — got it right. One amazing trivial fact is that when Lord Halifax first met Hitler in Berlin he mistook him for a footman and almost handed him his coat.