In the hands of the perverse tyrant, the nation is but a toy that he trifles with.

Dragon Elegy Reviews

Dragon Elegy is the story of a female citizen of Red (communist) China growing up there during the era of Mao Tse Tung and after.

It is an incredible story; more than incredible. It plumbs the depths of pain, misery, deprivation, starvation, torture and hopelessness in a manner rarely seen in print. At times, it is difficult to read, as the reader is either aghast at the real horrors that jump from the page or becomes so weary of the repetition of the pain and depression, a rest must be taken. Few books have ever come this close in drawing the reader into palpable terror. To have lived through it is almost unimaginable. How Qiru Long retained her sanity is a wonder. Indeed.

Dragon Elegy cannot be described as a novel. It is not. It can be either viewed as a documentary describing ‘life’ in Red China or as a personal memoir, documenting Qiru Long Walder’s tragic life under Mao’s dictatorial rule, before, during the Cultural Revolution and after. As a painfully detailed description of life during the Cultural Revolution and its horrors that all citizens were subjected to, it could stand alone as a detailed, historical treatise just on that, the Cultural Revolution, alone.

One terrible thread through the story of Qiru Long’s life there is the totalitarian suppression of individual thought. The descriptions of hundreds, and at times, thousands of people standing together and chanting or screaming praises of Mao or one of his policies in unison is exactly what George Orwell warned about in the form of the “Thought Police” in his futuristic novel, 1984. Only this is stone cold real. Its effect upon the behavior of individuals, turning friends into back-stabbing spies, creates a cold, terribly stressful picture of interactions between citizens. Trust no one.

It is a story unlike any other and Qiru Long Walder is to be congratulated for being able to somehow tell it and actually doing so. I have a mountain of respect for the lady.

The climax: After Mao’s death, more and more lenient regimes came into power and Red China became less and less isolationist and began to have economic and industrial interactions with the West and began to relax travel restrictions. Qiru Long managed to secure an American collegiate sponsor and was able to obtain an American visa. She subsequently traveled to America to study at a New Jersey college and apparently has stayed.

This leaving China (I so strongly want to use the word “escape”) is barely mentioned at the end of the book. It is downplayed to the point where I feel the ending of the story is weak. I feel more like it should be saluted with fireworks and a brass band!

“Dragon Elegy” is a powerful story that opens a window into humanity’s deepest dark side and yet shows goodness, hope and strength shining through in Qiru Long’s tenacious ability to cope with constant terror, year after year, and somehow manage to stay focused on the future, not knowing, but hoping that it would be bright. I am thankful, for her, that it was.
MJ (active CIA agent, name redacted)