Title: The Secret Piano: From Mao's Labor Camps to Bach's Goldberg Variations
Date published: March 6, 2012
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Zhu Xiao-Mei was born to middle-class parents in post-war China, and her musical proficiency became clear at an early age. Taught to play the piano by her mother, she developed quickly into a prodigy, immersing herself in the work of classical masters like Bach and Brahms. She was just ten years old when she began a rigorous course of study at the Beijing Conservatory, laying the groundwork for what was sure to be an extraordinary career. But in 1966, when Xiao-Mei was seventeen, the Cultural Revolution began, and life as she knew it changed forever. One by one, her family members were scattered, sentenced to prison or labor camps. By 1969, the art schools had closed, and Xiao-Mei was on her way to a work camp in Mongolia, where she would spend the next five years. Life in the camp was nearly unbearable, thanks to horrific living conditions and intensive brainwashing campaigns. Yet through it all Xiao-Mei clung to her passion for music and her sense of humor. And when the Revolution ended, it was the piano that helped her to heal. Heartbreaking and heartwarming, The Secret Piano is the incredible true story of one woman’s survival in the face of unbelievable odds—and in pursuit of a powerful dream.
It is hard to put in to words my thoughts on what I read, especially about her first hand experience of China's Cultural Revolution. I had never heard of it told in this way, and it makes it more real. There's a certain level of disconnect just reading a text book, but hearing a personal account changes that.
Writing-wise, it was not one of my favorites. In many areas it just dragged on. Honestly, I liked this more as an audiobook. Nancy Wu really helped bring out the story. I plan on listening to more of her narrations after this.
I learned a lot reading this, both about China and music. This has created more of an interest in listening to more classical music, especially Bach's Goldberg Variations (of which I didn't know existed). I would recommend this to those who have an interest in Chinese history and music.