Rape of Nanking – Book Review

rape of nankingI’m going to be as brief and to the point about this book as I can.

One: I did not have the will to review this book. I just did not have the words. Even now, a month on, and I’m still struggling to put this into words. It is, to put it simply, the most harrowing, graphic and revealing account of war crimes I am ever likely to read.

Two: In the end I realised, however little I wanted to review this, I really had no choice. It shocks me to my core that not enough people know about this (the number of people that have read it on Goodreads alone is remarkably low). This story needs to be told. Which brings me onto…

Three: You have to read it. It shocks me to my core that this is not common knowledge and that humanity can be capable of such things- but if we are ever to have any modicum of self-knowledge, then I think it is vital that everyone reads this.

Just a few final points about the content and niggling issues I feel have to be mentioned, which should in no way detract from reading this book, but are worth bearing in mind:

Firstly: I personally am not keen on “one-upmanship” of atrocities.

Secondly: to my mind the author should have resisted the urge to blame the West for China’s choice to trade with Japan instead of demanding reparations.

Thirdly: the lack of education on this as this is not a solely “Western” problem (in Indonesia for instance people wear Nazi paraphernalia). But no good comes out of blanket condemnations. There should be a global push for more education- East to West and West to East- of course, but we need to stop finger-pointing.

Still those were minor points of contention. Overall this was a thorough and highly education piece of non-fiction.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas


So have you read this book? Do you plan to? And have you read a book lately that you struggled to review? Let me know in the comments!

33 thoughts on “Rape of Nanking – Book Review

  1. I’ve contemplated over reading this. I don’t fancy reading dark books with a lot of graphic, real descriptions of people suffering, but I’m compelled to give it a shot. Thank you for reviewing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I honestly don’t think I’d be able to take on this book, but your review encourages me to give it an honest try if I do come across it. I have to thank you for reviewing it and bringing awareness to something so important.


  3. I haven’t read this book, but as a historian I know generally what happened. I am not sure I want to know more, to be honest. I am still shaken by Laurence Rees’ new history of the Holocaust – which is chilling. Again – as a historian I knew what happened, and in a good deal of detail because I’ve written on the Second World War and read widely on it, including finding out about the appalling crimes perpetrated by the Nazis. But Rees showed that there was even greater depth of evil in those crimes than we usually consider. Ouch. Are humans even capable of such things? Apparently.

    What I actually wonder is how can historians research such subjects without being revolted by it? I still recall the horror I felt when first researching soldiers’ stories of the First World War – reading the diaries and letters they wrote at the time – for my first book on that subject. I had to re-visit the field recently for my latest book on it (just published last week – woohoo!) – but time and familiarity had not inured me to the raw emotional power of the primary material. It still carried that strength. Now, this was war – horrific enough, of course, but with a kind of ‘professional’ gloss in that it was fought to certain rules and conventions, and humanity showed through (as when soldiers of one side came to the succour and aid of soldiers from another, who had been wounded). But it was still gut-wrenching to research and gut-wrenching to write. So I wonder – how do the authors of books on the even deeper horrors of humanity’s inhumanity to itself manage the task?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I understand that. I have to admit, I had a vague idea going in and I didn’t really want to read it either to tell the truth.
      I ended up reading it because it was part of a list I was reading from.
      But I don’t see how historians out readers can research these subjects without being affected by it. I honestly couldn’t imagine how they get through writing it. Chang did an incredible job here, but I think for her, and she mentions this in her introduction, it was a personal endeavour to educate people on one of the most overlooked crimes of the last century.
      Anyway, of you ever do need to do research, I can recommend this. It’s a struggle to get through, but it is mercifully short. Massive congrats on your new book being published!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you! This one actually has a launch, even – usually my books slide out into the market unheralded, but there’s an actual gathering with real people in a bookshop, with drinks and snacks, next week!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m not sure I could read this, but you are so right on the fact we should. It’s so easy to turn a blind eye and stay ignorant on those things, that need to be told, remembered, and learned from.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I honestly would never read this book. I absolutely understand your claim that everyone should read it but I have a very weak stomach for this type of stuff and thus could not bring myself to do it.
    Nevertheless, I wholly support that notion and hope your review will make more people interested in it, especially after you so eloquently described the reasons why and also your own experience, which I found very interesting 🙂
    Another great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Well, this definitely convinced me to add it in my TBR. I’ll definitely love to see what it has to reveal to me. Also love that I just a new word. Paraphernalia. Ooof. When you mention that there are Indonesians who still wear Nazi Paraphernalia, do you only mean the swastika? Or do you mean absolutely anything Nazi-related? I know that the swastika has other meanings besides the one we commonly associate it too. I found that fact really fascinating.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Brilliant! Haha I’m glad I could introduce you to a new word. Unfortunately no. Yes, the swastika does have a lot of other uses/meanings, but I mean actual Nazi imagery- here’s a couple of articles (I couldn’t find the original story I read years ago on this, cos, you know, it was years ago- so forgive the random sources, but they’ll give you the gist):

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Great post! I’ve had this book on my shelf for a long time, but haven’t read it yet. It’s a book I keep grabbing and then setting aside because of the subject matter. One day I will read it, as the history is something we all should know. Thank you for this review!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I haven’t read this one, but I do know that the Rape of Nanking isn’t a widely known historical event. I learned about it in high school and that was by chance. I forgot where I heard about it or if it was my teacher who mentioned it, but chose it as a research project and what I learned was beyond shocking and very disturbing.

    Liked by 1 person

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