Salted history, Mary Roberts

A Boy of China: In Search of Mao’s Lost Son
Richard Loseby
HarperCollins, $37.00,
ISBN 9781775540885

This is a book that seems at odds with itself. The title tells us that it is about the author’s search for “Mao’s lost son”. By the end, the author tells us that it is about He Zizhen, the mother of that boy. Elsewhere, he tells us that he is just as interested in “how people felt about Mao An Hong and his infamous dad”. These three themes are the proclaimed themes of the book and its ostensible raison d’être. However, there are another two themes that are less clearly stated. Firstly, this is clearly a travel book: it tells the story of the author’s journey, apparently in 2006 although this is never specified, around China from Shanghai to Tibet and back again in a great loop. Its second set of unstated themes is suggested by the mention of Mao An Hong’s “infamous dad”: these focus on various negative aspects of Mao Zedong and the Chinese Communist Party.

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