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FROM ONE OF CHINA'S MOST ACCLAIMED AND DECORATED WRITERS COMES A POWERFUL FIRST-PERSON ACCOUNT OF LIFE IN WUHAN DURING THE COVID-19 OUTBREAK. On January 25, 2020, after the central government imposed a lockdown in Wuhan, acclaimed Chinese writer Fang Fang began publishing on online diary. In the days and weeks that followed, Fang Fang's nightly postings gave voice to the fe FROM ONE OF CHINA'S MOST ACCLAIMED AND DECORATED WRITERS COMES A POWERFUL FIRST-PERSON ACCOUNT OF LIFE IN WUHAN DURING THE COVID-19 OUTBREAK. On January 25, 2020, after the central government imposed a lockdown in Wuhan, acclaimed Chinese writer Fang Fang began publishing on online diary. In the days and weeks that followed, Fang Fang's nightly postings gave voice to the fears, frustrations, anger, and hope of missions of her fellow citizens, reflecting on the psychological impact of forced isolation, the role of internet as both community lifeline and source of misinformation, and most tragically, the lives of neighbors and friends taken by the deadly virus. A fascinating eyewitness account of events as they unfold, 'WUHAN DIARY' captures the challenges of daily life as changing moods and emotions of being quarantined without reliable information. Fang Fang finds solace in small domestic comforts and is inspired by the courage of friends, health professionals and volunteers, as well as the resilience and perseverance of Wuhan's nine million residents. But, by claiming the writer's duty to record she also speaks out against social injustice, abuse of power, and other problems which impeded the response to the epidemic and gets herself embroiled in online controversies because of it. As Fang Fang documents the beginning of the global health crisis in real time, we are able to identify patterns and mistakes that many of the countries dealing with the novel coronavirus have later repeated. She reminds us that, in the face of the new virus, the plight of the citizens of Wuhan is also that of citizens everywhere. As Fang Fang writes: "The virus is the common enemy of humankind; that is a lesson for all humanity. The only way we can conquer this virus and free ourselves from its grip is for all members of humankind to work together." Blending the intimate and the epic, the profound and the quotidian, 'WUHAN DIARY' is a remarkable record of an extraordinary time.


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FROM ONE OF CHINA'S MOST ACCLAIMED AND DECORATED WRITERS COMES A POWERFUL FIRST-PERSON ACCOUNT OF LIFE IN WUHAN DURING THE COVID-19 OUTBREAK. On January 25, 2020, after the central government imposed a lockdown in Wuhan, acclaimed Chinese writer Fang Fang began publishing on online diary. In the days and weeks that followed, Fang Fang's nightly postings gave voice to the fe FROM ONE OF CHINA'S MOST ACCLAIMED AND DECORATED WRITERS COMES A POWERFUL FIRST-PERSON ACCOUNT OF LIFE IN WUHAN DURING THE COVID-19 OUTBREAK. On January 25, 2020, after the central government imposed a lockdown in Wuhan, acclaimed Chinese writer Fang Fang began publishing on online diary. In the days and weeks that followed, Fang Fang's nightly postings gave voice to the fears, frustrations, anger, and hope of missions of her fellow citizens, reflecting on the psychological impact of forced isolation, the role of internet as both community lifeline and source of misinformation, and most tragically, the lives of neighbors and friends taken by the deadly virus. A fascinating eyewitness account of events as they unfold, 'WUHAN DIARY' captures the challenges of daily life as changing moods and emotions of being quarantined without reliable information. Fang Fang finds solace in small domestic comforts and is inspired by the courage of friends, health professionals and volunteers, as well as the resilience and perseverance of Wuhan's nine million residents. But, by claiming the writer's duty to record she also speaks out against social injustice, abuse of power, and other problems which impeded the response to the epidemic and gets herself embroiled in online controversies because of it. As Fang Fang documents the beginning of the global health crisis in real time, we are able to identify patterns and mistakes that many of the countries dealing with the novel coronavirus have later repeated. She reminds us that, in the face of the new virus, the plight of the citizens of Wuhan is also that of citizens everywhere. As Fang Fang writes: "The virus is the common enemy of humankind; that is a lesson for all humanity. The only way we can conquer this virus and free ourselves from its grip is for all members of humankind to work together." Blending the intimate and the epic, the profound and the quotidian, 'WUHAN DIARY' is a remarkable record of an extraordinary time.

30 review for Wuhan Diary: Dispatches from the Original Epicenter

  1. 4 out of 5

    Petra-X

    Finished! The book was exactly what it said, a diary posted online every day (posts removed by the ultra-leftists - see below, when they could). Fang Fang is a major literary figure in China and she has a very large following for whom her posts were perhaps the only true despatches on the coronavirus situation. The only information that was not tainted with having to please the Party official above the reporter, and so on up the chain. The afterword by the translator, Michael Berry would have bee Finished! The book was exactly what it said, a diary posted online every day (posts removed by the ultra-leftists - see below, when they could). Fang Fang is a major literary figure in China and she has a very large following for whom her posts were perhaps the only true despatches on the coronavirus situation. The only information that was not tainted with having to please the Party official above the reporter, and so on up the chain. The afterword by the translator, Michael Berry would have been better first, as a foreword, as it gives context to the diary with it's cultural references that aren't obvious until pointed out. Wuhan Diary is really a book worth reading by the Chinese (who almost universally have slagged it off and denied the truth of it) who hopefully might actually learn that, outside of other Far Eastern countries who share the importance of 'saving face', the rest of the world respects honesty more than it does the cover-ups over disease that saving face inevitably means. Hopefully before yet another disease of Chinese origin. ____________________ Notes on reading It starts, the Chinese government try and cover it up. People don't know about it so they travel and catch it and travel somewhere else passing on the disease as they go. Some of them meet international travellers, some of them travel abroad themselves. The Chinese government eventually comes clean about it but it's too late to stop the spread of the infection worldwide. So that's twice they done it, SARS and Covid-19. Will the Chinese government see the light and tell the world immediately they even suspect there is another infection? How can a government that is essentially a collective dictatorship be forced to do the best for the world rather than what will benefit their own small highly privileged group? Cover-up of SARS by the Chinese gvt "Thinking back to the year of SARS, that disease began to spread in March but the government initially tried to cover it up. At the time, I had an old classmate in Guangzhou who was about to undergo a big operation. I went with a few dozen old friends from all over CHina down to Guangzhou to support her during her surgery; we all descended on the very hospital where the SARS outbreak was fiercely raging, but none of us knew at that time and none of us were wearing face masks. We all travelled there roundtrip by train. Once what was happening was finally exposed, everyone all over the country was in a state of panic." How can they be made to see that what they see as 'saving face' is what we see as making them a pariah nation? China would be regarded more positively by the world by coming clean about diseases than by covering them up and, as still continues, fudging the figures. According to worldometer.com, China has only about 88K cases in total with just 2 or 3 new ones a day. Fang Fang in early February says there was more than 70,000 then. ____________________ Ultra-leftists. "Anyone with an opinion that differs from their own is regarded as their enemy." That's true for more countries than China, ultra-any political convictions. The last paragraph shows that it isn't just in China that the media is utterly biased. This is what Fang Fang has to say about the havoc they create (apart from getting her blog banned, her social media profile removed and endless posts deleted) "Today there is something I want to get off my chest that has been weighing on me for a long time: Those ultra-leftists in China are responsible for causing irreparable harm to the nation and the people. All they want to do is return to the good old days of the Cultural Revolution and reverse all the Reform Era policies. Anyone with an opinion that differs from their own is regarded as their enemy. They behave like a pack of thugs, attacking anyone who fails to cooperate with them, launching wave after wave of attacks. They spray the world with their violent, hate-filled language and often resort to even more despicable tactics, so base that it almost defies understanding. But what I really just don’t understand is: How is it that they are able to publish these ridiculous things online and repeatedly turn the truth upside down, yet their posts somehow never get censored or deleted and no one ever stops them." ____________________ The last paragraph of this quote is quite chilling, an ever-rising ladder, or triangle, of corruption and protectionism and those at the bottom are nothing. "Over time the most talented get weeded out and those inferior managers rise to the top; meanwhile the most innovative and talented people in the field find jobs elsewhere. When you are too good, you call too much attention to yourself and get weeded out. There must be a lot of people working in media who simply use their power to get ahead. Those people would never commit the flagrant error of speaking out for the people during the Chinese New Year, of all times! What is it, then, that they should be doing during the start of the Chinese New Year? Everyone in the media knows this! The people are nothing in their eyes; all they need to worry about is making their superiors happy, because they are the only ones who can protect their status—but that has absolutely nothing to do with the needs of the people" _____________________ From the author, "My daughter asked her 99-year-old grandfather what his secret to a long life was. His response: “Eat a lot of fatty meat, don’t exercise, and be sure to curse out anyone who deserves it.” _____________________ Excerpts from the mostly negative reviews of the Wuhan Diary by people with Chinese names or living in a Chinese-language speaking country. Skin in the game! These were almost all the reviews. I left out two from friends who want to read it and one Chinese language one where I wasn't sure the Google translation made any sense. The ebook came out yesterday, so even though I prefer print, I couldn't wait... ""One of my best friends who's currently working/living in China begs to differ from Fang fang's opinions" Apparently coffee shops are open.... 2. "the book is about a lie in wuhan, its author FangFang combines her friends'news(not real).... if the reality, please read the newspapers and choose the fair self-media" 3. "I hope there will be something comprehensive to tell the World awhat had happen in Wuhan and how Chinese government dealt with the enemy of all mankind instead of this biased book." 4. "I do not think that the translation's doing the book justice. Fang Fang has a simplicity and unique Chinese humor in her writing that are lost from translation, which make the book less sincere." Something to bear in mind. 5. "It's a shame and sad that Fang Fang couldn't publish the Chinese version" 6. "Biased version" 7. "it's been attacked elsewhere on the basis that it slanders the reputation of the party, that it is based on rumors, or because her criticisms of local officials..." 8. "Full of rumors, shame on her." 9. "The voices of China are too limited, one person's voice is too strong."

  2. 5 out of 5

    Erica Hu

    The title speaks for itself –– a diary. To those who lash out on this book and denouncing it for being biased, read it like you read a diary. A diary is a momento, a piece of oral history. You don’t read Voices from Chernobyl and expect to understand a comprehensive, objective, deductive research paper with all facts about the nuclear disaster. You read a diary to hear a voice, to learn about perspectives not fit for traditional journalism. Fang Fang’s diary is one of the tiny puzzles that make The title speaks for itself –– a diary. To those who lash out on this book and denouncing it for being biased, read it like you read a diary. A diary is a momento, a piece of oral history. You don’t read Voices from Chernobyl and expect to understand a comprehensive, objective, deductive research paper with all facts about the nuclear disaster. You read a diary to hear a voice, to learn about perspectives not fit for traditional journalism. Fang Fang’s diary is one of the tiny puzzles that make up the big picture. Read critically and respect the author’s vantage point. Everyone has the right to reflect on their own thoughts, obtain information, and document history from their microcosmic point of view. Less nationalistic sentiments entangled when you review Fang Fang’s book, please. I also admit that the quality of her writing in this book is quite mediocre.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Radiantflux

    50th book for 2020. Although somewhat repetitive, an excellent resource for both understanding day-to-day life in Wuhan under lockdown, as well as the Chinese government's response. Note: Many negative reviews on Goodreads are a result of a concerted effort by Chinese government trolls, which should make you want to read this even more. 4-stars.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tara

    I don’t know about you, but all these 1 star reviews just make me want to read it more. Preordering now.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Cong Han

    It's a shame and sad that Fang Fang couldn't publish the Chinese version.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Hadrian

    But there is nothing we can do. Actually, there is nothing anyone can do. Our only choice is to grin and bear it. Even though it is getting to the point that most of the patients can’t bear it anymore, nor can their families. But if you don’t bear it, what else is there you can do? I once wrote somewhere that “one speck of dust from an entire era may not seem like much, but when it falls on your head it’s like a mountain crashing on you.” The first time I wrote those words, I don’t think I fully But there is nothing we can do. Actually, there is nothing anyone can do. Our only choice is to grin and bear it. Even though it is getting to the point that most of the patients can’t bear it anymore, nor can their families. But if you don’t bear it, what else is there you can do? I once wrote somewhere that “one speck of dust from an entire era may not seem like much, but when it falls on your head it’s like a mountain crashing on you.” The first time I wrote those words, I don’t think I fully grasped the depth of what it represented. But now those words are etched in my heart. [...] But then again, when I think about it from another angle, besides standing up and putting on a brave face, what else can we do? We are not trained to help the sick. All we can do is face what lies before us and shoulder what is coming. And when we have the wherewithal to help others, we help them shoulder it, too. But no matter what, I need to bear another week. I often wonder what writing will be published about the current pandemic after it will be written. (Spare a thought for all the resumes and college admissions essays that have to include it.) Fang Fang's account is notable for being one of the most popular pieces of writing written during the ongoing crisis. This was not supposed to be a book, it was a collection of diary entries written on Weibo, and so there is a lot of repetition. Something happens, and the author writes down her thoughts hours later, often without a filter. She holds fast to hope, and the stories of people helping each other. Fang Fang (a pen name for Wang Fang, an award-winning author), is a well-off intellectual, and so her story includes a look into Chinese writers and professors' perspectives. Of course this is not the whole country, but it is still of some use for understanding what's going on. The author shares some rumors and videos that are shared on social media -- and we know how unreliable social media is. She is also angry at the local government and its inability to respond to the issue, and that's also a reason why she's received so much pushback from online nationalists. See the one-star reviews next to this one. This is still a primary source of some value. As I read it, I found that events she describes as happening this year feel like they were five years ago. This book may be praised but I wonder how many people are too emotionally exhausted to read it all the way through.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Luna Qiu

    First thing first: if you are only reading this book for the sake of getting more dirt on the CCP, then you are coming to the wrong place. Granted, this book is biased, but this is because the book is written from the perspective of an average Wuhan citizen who witnessed the entirety of the Chinese government's dealing from her humble perspective, plus a few interviews that she has done with some medical authorities. She is not a professional reporter, nor does she have access to all inside info First thing first: if you are only reading this book for the sake of getting more dirt on the CCP, then you are coming to the wrong place. Granted, this book is biased, but this is because the book is written from the perspective of an average Wuhan citizen who witnessed the entirety of the Chinese government's dealing from her humble perspective, plus a few interviews that she has done with some medical authorities. She is not a professional reporter, nor does she have access to all inside information regarding to China's coronavirus situation. Bear in mind that this is a DIARY, as one of the comments written above me has pointed out, and it is impossible for the writer to give an extensive narrative on this matter. Also, I would like to point out that this piece of writing was heavily censored and criticized by the pro-CCP people in China solely because Fang Fang calls for the public to hold the government accountable for their actions (which is actually the main point of this book, mentioned at the end of many chapters), which further proves that this book is in no way a political propaganda defending the CCP. I read the Mandarin version of the book and a few excerpts of the English translation. Frankly, I do not think that the translation's doing the book justice. Fang Fang has a simplicity and unique Chinese humor in her writing that are lost from translation, which make the book less sincere. This is why I am giving the book four stars. But otherwise I think this is a wonderful and honest book. Her most amazing talent, I think, is that she uses everyday events to convey the emotion of the masses. For example, she notes that at one point people's emotions become numb from losing so many loved ones to coronavirus (almost every one knows someone who died from the virus) to the point that people can't even cry anymore. Instead, they channel their fury to cursing the incompetent government both online and offline. This is actually a brilliant way of criticizing the lack of freedom of speech in the Chinese society. The people of Wuhan has obviously realized this when the death toll in the city soared, all because the provincial government and the so-called "experts" attempt to cover up the severity of the disease from public. On the other hand, Fang Fang brings up the memes that Chinese people created online, as well as the heart-warming support within individual communities/neighborhoods to show optimism and stamina that the Chinese people displayed during this time of crisis, which make the situation more bearable. As I have said before, this diary is a honest narrative, providing us a glimpse into Wuhan during its lockdown. The writing is not perfect (understandable, since it's all written online with little furnishing), but the raw emotions that it conveys make this book worth a read. It's also interesting to see how many more Chinese people are beginning to realize the importance of freedom of speech through this incident, and are brave enough to speak up, to encourage each other, and to criticize the authority for its wrongdoings. This is a valuable lesson that both the CCP and the Chinese people need to learn, because we can't afford another pandemic like this again. Hopefully, after this incident, the Chinese people can finally earn their freedom of speech (or at least a bit more).

  8. 5 out of 5

    Night Owl

    A diary was written by a CCP high official retiree who quarantined in the bedroom for more than two months, based on highly repeated catchphrases like “I heard from a doctor friend”, "one of my friends texted me that", "a journalist friend secretly told me"... It's fine if it were posted in the Whatapp Group chat for gossip juice, but a book happened in such short notice with ready-to-read translated English and Germany editions? Let alone certain rumors got fact-checked by netizens in China bef A diary was written by a CCP high official retiree who quarantined in the bedroom for more than two months, based on highly repeated catchphrases like “I heard from a doctor friend”, "one of my friends texted me that", "a journalist friend secretly told me"... It's fine if it were posted in the Whatapp Group chat for gossip juice, but a book happened in such short notice with ready-to-read translated English and Germany editions? Let alone certain rumors got fact-checked by netizens in China before the punishment of her book like a Southen city nurse who volunteered in Wuhan died 3 times in her book (Chinese, English and Germany edition), yet turns out to be still ALIVE but fainted due to another physical disease. This poor nurse's colleagues and family spoke publicly for an apology. A bit cruel to host an international online funeral for somebody who's just sick not dead, isn't it? Kinda feel insulted to see it be recommended on Goodreads in the first place. A watched pot never boils, I'd rather hold a couple of months to see how things/facts settled down. I lean on the latest scientific reports made by Cambridge University, Nature, the Lancet etc with less biased prejudice nor overdosed politicization at this moment. In the meanwhile, one of my best friends who's currently working/living in China begs to differ from Fang fang's opinions. In case you're wondering, he's a British caucasian who has never been brainwashed by any political organizations. Feedback from him who's experienced the process of containing the COVID-19 turns to be quite the opposite. With the ultimate goal of saving more lives, yes, certain strict rules were complimented, such as compulsory home isolation, mask-wearing, and temperature checking basically everywhere you go. He's able to go out for a coffee with friends now, better than herd immunity in any possible ways. Hope more solidarity and kindness to help the human race put an end to the stressful and deadly menace. Rather than focus on some sort of biased political schemes.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Owlseyes

    https://www.scmp.com/news/china/polit... https://www.scmp.com/news/china/polit...

  10. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    This book started life as an online diary kept by Chinese writer Fang Fang throughout the Covid-19 lockdown imposed on Wuhan beginning in late January 2020. Chronicling life on the ground at the heart of the outbreak that has now spread around the world, she writes on everything from the difficulties of everyday routines such as shopping amid shortages, the fear and uncertainty in the face of a new disease about which little was known and less shared with the public, the spread of information an This book started life as an online diary kept by Chinese writer Fang Fang throughout the Covid-19 lockdown imposed on Wuhan beginning in late January 2020. Chronicling life on the ground at the heart of the outbreak that has now spread around the world, she writes on everything from the difficulties of everyday routines such as shopping amid shortages, the fear and uncertainty in the face of a new disease about which little was known and less shared with the public, the spread of information and misinformation as it emerges, lives lost to the virus, to criticism of the handling of the outbreak and the flood of criticism she received in return. An inportant record, and well worth the read.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lee

    It's unfair to describe such a biased situation in Wuhan. There were some real stories, but not all complete. The author has just written what she wants to write. There were more good things happened there-a little girl recovering from surfing the coronavirus said she thanked the all medical workers for Wuhan people; the nurses led patients dance to cheer them up… I hope there will be something comprehensive to tell the World what had happen in Wuhan and how Chinese government dealt with the ene It's unfair to describe such a biased situation in Wuhan. There were some real stories, but not all complete. The author has just written what she wants to write. There were more good things happened there-a little girl recovering from surfing the coronavirus said she thanked the all medical workers for Wuhan people; the nurses led patients dance to cheer them up… I hope there will be something comprehensive to tell the World what had happen in Wuhan and how Chinese government dealt with the enemy of all mankind instead of this biased book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Peter Tillman

    Good review of Fang Fang's book by Dwight Garner, my wife's fave NYT reviewer: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/15/bo... Excerpt: "This is an important and dignified book that nonetheless, in this adept translation by Michael Barry, has its share of dead space and repetition. “Wuhan Diary” would have been twice as good at half the length. It’s a bit easier to praise, as Tom Wolfe said of the William Shawn-era New Yorker, than it is to read. Still, the urgency of this account is impossible to deny. T Good review of Fang Fang's book by Dwight Garner, my wife's fave NYT reviewer: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/15/bo... Excerpt: "This is an important and dignified book that nonetheless, in this adept translation by Michael Barry, has its share of dead space and repetition. “Wuhan Diary” would have been twice as good at half the length. It’s a bit easier to praise, as Tom Wolfe said of the William Shawn-era New Yorker, than it is to read. Still, the urgency of this account is impossible to deny. This book is most scorching in Fang Fang’s calls to hold to account the leaders who downgraded and minimized the virus, wasting nearly three weeks and allowing it to seep into the world at large. She rallies around this topic like Henry V pacing the floorboards before the Battle of Agincourt. She may live meekly during the lockdown, but she writes bold sentences. She wants Chinese culture to change, for people to be more willing to admit error, to stand up and take blame." Well, good luck with that, under the current regime. Probably won't read -- but might skim, once the library is open again. It is interesting, and sad, to read the invective hurled at the author by locals, many young, who apparently don't want to face reality. Old, old story...

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ning Gu

    the book is about a lie in wuhan, its author FangFang combines her friends'news(not real) and the suspicion of the GOV, and builds the lie in wuhan. So if read the book, readers should know what you want to know in wuhan, if the reality, please read the newspapers and choose the fair self-media. In my eyes , the book reflects the some OUT-OF-TIMEs in china is lack of understanding about the reality, and distort the truth. And have to say that the literarary world in china looks a bit depraved, j the book is about a lie in wuhan, its author FangFang combines her friends'news(not real) and the suspicion of the GOV, and builds the lie in wuhan. So if read the book, readers should know what you want to know in wuhan, if the reality, please read the newspapers and choose the fair self-media. In my eyes , the book reflects the some OUT-OF-TIMEs in china is lack of understanding about the reality, and distort the truth. And have to say that the literarary world in china looks a bit depraved, just writes some books which about a ugly and unreal society, and the western world may don't like them but can gain a sense of "superiority". so you can't read Anne Diary to know the real WW2,you should read histroy like “Year Zero: A History of 1945”.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sreeram

    This is a genre of books that is likely to catch on considering the times we live in. But it was interesting to read the daily travails of an elderly writer in China during the 60 days of quarantine imposed in Wuhan. Lots of insights about life in China, what with the censorship and the constant state of vigilance.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    This was a very raw and heart wrenching account of life in Wuhan during the recent lock down to contain the Covid-19 virus. Fang Fang is beyond courageous when she cries out for justice: “as a Wuhan citizen who has been quarantined here for two months, as someone who has personally experienced and witnessed this tragedy that befell Wuhan, we have a responsibility and a duty to seek justice for those wronged souls. Whoever made mistakes and whoever is responsible, those are the people who should This was a very raw and heart wrenching account of life in Wuhan during the recent lock down to contain the Covid-19 virus. Fang Fang is beyond courageous when she cries out for justice: “as a Wuhan citizen who has been quarantined here for two months, as someone who has personally experienced and witnessed this tragedy that befell Wuhan, we have a responsibility and a duty to seek justice for those wronged souls. Whoever made mistakes and whoever is responsible, those are the people who should carry this burden. If we abandon the search for justice, if we forget what has happened here during these days, if we one day can no longer even remember Chang Kai’s final words, then, my fellow Wuhan people, you will be carrying a much heavier burden than this disaster; you will also be carrying the burden of shame. And the burden of forgetting.” It is very sad to know that she is being attacked by ultra nationalists and internet trolls for trying to share with the world what it was like for the people of Wuhan who so admirably sacrificed themselves so that the virus could be contained. No one should be harassed or victimised for trying to share their personal experiences, for trying to tell the truth as they know it. I hope that the world can learn from accounts such as hers and work together to fight the virus together.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Stefani

    Is it just me, or do all the 1 star reviews with nearly identical language make you want to read this more? It does me. I see you CCP apologists.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Marks54

    I was not sure that I would like this. It is one of many related books being produced in near real time during the course of the pandemic and the hype that went with the announcement of its translation made me wonder whether it would be worthwhile on its own merits. My worries were groundless and I heartily enjoyed the book. First, lets be clear on what this is and it is not. This is not a specialized study or tract on the initial ravages of the novel coronavirus in Wuhan. The author is a superb I was not sure that I would like this. It is one of many related books being produced in near real time during the course of the pandemic and the hype that went with the announcement of its translation made me wonder whether it would be worthwhile on its own merits. My worries were groundless and I heartily enjoyed the book. First, lets be clear on what this is and it is not. This is not a specialized study or tract on the initial ravages of the novel coronavirus in Wuhan. The author is a superb and accomplished writer - and it shows - but she is not a medical professional or even a science writer like Gina Kolata. Wuhan Diary is a book form version of an online diary that the author maintained for 60 days during the course of the quarantine in Wuhan - the action that startled observers in the West and introduced them to what would follow here once the virus got established outside of China. This was not a freestanding book form diary to start with. Instead, it was produced on a daily basis through postings on social media in China. Fang Fang was not the only person keeping track of their experiences but her location, her timing, and her considerable skills, coupled with the initial chaos and fear regarding the virus, earned her millions of followers worldwide as well as a huge number of detractors. (I realize that internet chat rooms are notoriously nasty places everywhere, but even so it seems that she has had to battle...) There is not much of a plot. Virus comes. Preventative steps are put into place. Virus rages. People start to suffer from long periods of near isolation. Virus continues to rage. Repeat above ... In the course of chronicling all of this, Fang Fang manages to keep a number of stories going, including what she hears about the pandemic from her interpersonal network of friends and acquaintances, developments within her own life and personal circle, how various quarantine related issues develop (food, medicine, medical care, her dog, etc.). In the midst of all of this, she thinks long and hard about what is happening, what is the right thing to do, what the government (central and local) is and is not doing, and how she is holding up. She even reflects on a long life that has spanned the cultural revolution, governmental reforms, and the economic boom. Imagine the changes she has witnessed. In all of this, she displays a strong ethical and moral position and is not afraid of anyone (apparently). She decries government inaction and inflexibility and wonders if and when politicians and administrators will ever be held accountable for the destruction caused by the virus. When her posts are taken down (which happens regularly) she fights to get them reposted. When she gets attacked and smeared by internet trolls, she responds and gives no quarter. She is not anti-government either and seems more interested in reform and improved sensitivity to people. I am sure there are backstories on particular events, but this is the impression that comes across. Fang Fang appears to be prudent on some matters and how they are discussed. The most interesting part of the book for me comes through a comparison of the dates of the diary entries and what was going on in the US at the same time. When the lockdown began in late January, the virus still was not real in the US. When the quarantine in Wuhan was completed in late March, this was just when various SAH orders and social distancing protocols were getting started in the US. The diary traces the general path that we have just gone through in the US (it is now June 6). They had gone through what we were just starting to go through. It is striking to compare recent experiences with the virus here with what happened during the quarantine in Wuhan, as related in the diary. Yes, I know that there are big differences between the US and China. Even so, the similarities in some issues are striking. Early on, there are problems that many here can relate to. Where do I get masks? Which masks should I get? Why do these &%@%# vendors charge so much? How can they get away with it? Where do I get food if I am stuck in my building? Where do I get my meds for recurring medical needs? What do I do if an elder parent becomes ill or even dies? How can I have a memorial service for the family (or close friends) in the midst of this quarantine? Why is the quarantine taking so long? How do I handle my growing depression? Sound familiar? Her writing is crisp and clear. Kudos to the translator. While there is a lot to complain about, it is also apparent that Fang Fang is trying to look on the bright side of things and look forward to life after the zero infection threshold has been reached. I see more than a little positivity and even optimism in the book. This is a very personal account. Some of the differences are intriguing. There is relatively less on the dynamics of pandemics than is present in other accounts. The quarantine is supposed to work but it is not clear why, given that there is not a vaccine or treatment at present. Is it an effort to build herd immunity? Not clear at all. Perhaps those in charge were also trying to figure things out. There is relatively little on assumptions about why the virus works as it does. Are masks required to protect you or others who encounter you? In one small example, towards the end of the diary, she mentions some friends/acquaintances who contracted the virus while attending some large functions scheduled at a time when they probably should not have been scheduled. While this criticism is justified, in the particular example two of the individuals sang in a chorus at these functions (and likely practiced beforehand). It is becoming better known to us that such situations (choirs, choruses) can themselves be occasions for transmitting the virus to others in the group. While there are more than a few criticisms of authorities in the diary, this does not come across as an anti-government screed. Macro politics are not on the table and that is wise. I can get caught up on inter-governmental mudslinging from other sources. Global political rhetoric would detract from the deep value present in the diary. I long ago passed the time when I could see myself learning Chinese and at times like those of the pandemic I regret that. It would have been good to read Fang Fang’s diary entries as they were initially published and responded to. If I cannot have that, then this version will have to do - and that is a good outcome for western readers.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Nikhil

    It is a very relevant book to read in these times. It talks about how the daily happenings of the lockdown period when the coronavirus unfolded in Wuhan. The author (Fang Fang) of the book started writing dairies on daily happenings. Soon, she gathered a massive reader base and this book is the English translation of the diaries, which were originally published in Chinese. Fang Fang became more than anyone else, a voice which people could look to for an honest appraisal of what was happening every It is a very relevant book to read in these times. It talks about how the daily happenings of the lockdown period when the coronavirus unfolded in Wuhan. The author (Fang Fang) of the book started writing dairies on daily happenings. Soon, she gathered a massive reader base and this book is the English translation of the diaries, which were originally published in Chinese. Fang Fang became more than anyone else, a voice which people could look to for an honest appraisal of what was happening everyday in Wuhan during age of COVID-19. She showed where they were going,anticipated how the society was likely to respond and warned the readers where the many pitfalls lie. The number of cases has eased in Wuhan, but the situation is still to reach to Peak in countries like India so the pitfalls and the learnings mentioned in the book can be used to reduce the impact of the virus.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kalisha Buckhanon

    Brave, outstanding, non-conscientious, salvaging. Wuhan Diary will be studied for its reflection of insurgent life energy and documentation of a human mind in flux in the ranks of Iris Murdoch's Jackson's Dilemma, Joan Didion's Year of Magical Thinking and Sonali Deraniyagala's Wave.

  20. 4 out of 5

    teohjitkhiam

    There are a plethora of reviewers here at Goodreads that are far more articulate & perceptive than I am, and whose generally insightful reviews that I subscribe to wholeheartedly. That being said, as Fang Fang herself would state, her voice is merely one out the countless millions that suffered through the ravages of the coronavirus during the two month lockdown of Wuhan. Yet, it must be acknowledged that she herself was at center of the storm, both figuratively & literally. Those looking for di There are a plethora of reviewers here at Goodreads that are far more articulate & perceptive than I am, and whose generally insightful reviews that I subscribe to wholeheartedly. That being said, as Fang Fang herself would state, her voice is merely one out the countless millions that suffered through the ravages of the coronavirus during the two month lockdown of Wuhan. Yet, it must be acknowledged that she herself was at center of the storm, both figuratively & literally. Those looking for dirt on the CPC or clarion calls for Western-style democracy should disabuse themselves of such notions. THIS ISN'T THAT KIND OF BOOK. Another newspaper review, noting that the book could be cut down by half & be as readable, misses the point. It's a diary. Repetitive elements - buying food, talking with neighbors, chatting online - reinforces the degree of monotony of everyday life under the lockdown.

  21. 4 out of 5

    K

    Have read the whole thing in Fangfang's original language (Chinese) because "oh it is such an amazing story" media's been talking about and I happened to be able to read Chinese as one of my chosen languages to study. Well, it's her freedom to write what she wants, but she might as well need to do some fact-checking before she decides to write this supposedly informative piece and publish to Western audiences, who have no idea what's going on. Her words would be taken as gospel truth outside of Have read the whole thing in Fangfang's original language (Chinese) because "oh it is such an amazing story" media's been talking about and I happened to be able to read Chinese as one of my chosen languages to study. Well, it's her freedom to write what she wants, but she might as well need to do some fact-checking before she decides to write this supposedly informative piece and publish to Western audiences, who have no idea what's going on. Her words would be taken as gospel truth outside of China... she fully knows the impact and keeps playing on words. I remain doubtful of her intentions. I actually follow her Weibo. So don't discredit me right away. She was on social media and retweeting (She doesn't use Twitter, but you get what I mean) random news articles, but has only found out some early facts when netizens shove them down her throat way after she publishes the diary. I don't know if she would make changes or add some footnotes to correct her mistakes. Hope she does so. Also, she's rich af. Has relations within CCP. Lives in a grand house. Whether or not her views represent Chinese commoners is doubtful. Readers should take into their consideration while reading this diary. ______ Update 26 June 2020: Our netizens on Weibo has found out Fang Fang has six different private real estates. Wow. Wonder where that money comes from when property price in China is almost $4000 per square meter... ______ So yeah, my review. I do not have these "corona-heroine-fangfang" fan lenses on, so it's just "okay". The mainstream media's blowing up it way too much, saying she's the "most acclaimed Chinese writer" when nobody's ever heard of her in or outside of China before this crisis. But apparently, it fits their agenda, and the audience love a Katniss-Everdeen-heroine story against "evil CCP" Snow, so whatever. I've got my popcorns. Fangfang's got a lot of fans in China too. Feel free to worship her work. I respect your opinion. Also #Pray4Wuhan and #Pray4theWorld. Quarantine is almost over and I am optimistic. Although I don't want to go back to school. :(

  22. 5 out of 5

    晓明 韩

    biased view

  23. 4 out of 5

    Shadowwalker

    full of rumors, shame on her.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Feng Zhu

    The voices of China are too limited, one person’s voice is too strong.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Surbhi

    Wuhan Diary is a collection of blog posts written by Chinese author Fang Fang, over the course of 60 days of Wuhan’s citywide quarantine starting January 25, 2020 during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The blog posts were originally written in Chinese and shared on social media platforms like WeChat and Weibo as an account of Fang Fang’s daily life under quarantine. I read the book in June 2020, as cases in Delhi continued to rise, and the emotional states and thought processes Fang Fan Wuhan Diary is a collection of blog posts written by Chinese author Fang Fang, over the course of 60 days of Wuhan’s citywide quarantine starting January 25, 2020 during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The blog posts were originally written in Chinese and shared on social media platforms like WeChat and Weibo as an account of Fang Fang’s daily life under quarantine. I read the book in June 2020, as cases in Delhi continued to rise, and the emotional states and thought processes Fang Fang describes felt eerily similar to what I had experienced during various points of my own quarantine. In the prologue (or it might have been the epilogue) Fang Fang notes that she did not edit the blog posts when they were compiled into the book. The collection is particularly unique because of its rawness — it offers insights into her thinking in the moment, untainted by any retrospective reevaluations. Wuhan Diary is a fantastic account of the early days of the pandemic precisely because it does not give us the luxury of 20/20 hindsight. Fang Fang powerfully documents the paranoia, fear, sadness, and anxieties the people of Wuhan experienced. Many entries are a pastiche of social media posts and WeChat forwards. Unlike mainstream media coverage, she rarely looks to studies or authorities for information, instead relying on messages from friends and forwards in group chats — perhaps a more accurate representation of many people’s experiences of the pandemic. She is aware of this, writing, “As an independent writer, [I] only have my own tiny perspective on things. The only things I can pay attention to and experience are those little details that are happening around me and those real people I encounter in my life. And so that’s all I can write.” In consuming Chinese language social media posts in the form of an English language book, we irreversibly change some aspects of the experience that real-time readers in China would’ve had. The translation from Chinese was ably executed in record time by Michael Berry. As a consequence of being a translation of real-time Chinese blog posts, the writing feels simplistic at times and there were some entries that I skimmed through. However, the book still has some exquisite turns of phrase and metaphors, such as, “The powerful people of this world, the so-called victors, often don’t really care about literature; for them, literature is just a flowery adornment. But for the weak and dispossessed, literature is often a bright light that shines through one’s life, it is a wreath of straw you can cling to for support while floating down the river, it is the savior you can turn to when you are reaching the end.” Fang Fang was targeted with a lot of vitriol from some sections of Chinese society due to her critiques of the government response (critiques which are mild by many international standards). She touches upon some of these trolls and criticisms in her later entries, though by rendering dynamic social media posts into static pages, we lose the ability to see the comments that she didn’t choose to explicitly reflect in her writing. By being unable to scroll through comment sections and having no access to the universe of Chinese social media, I only know of those aspects of the trolling (as well as support) that Fang Fang talks about (though internet searches for news articles fill this gap somewhat). Initially, I was also annoyed by the seeming changing tone of the entries. At many points Fang Fang questions government authorities and calls out their missteps, at some others she urges readers to “put our faith in our leaders; we need to believe in them.” Upon more thought however, I realised that this sort of vacillation does not point to inconsistencies or incoherence, but rather is a truer depiction of our changing daily mental states. I, too, am not beyond being satisfied by responses of the Delhi government on one day and frustrated the next. The critiques offered by Fang Fang may seem mild to foreigners but the severe backlash it attracted is a testament to how bold her writing was. I don't always post on Goodreads (ahem Amazon ahem) but you can read this and other reviews here!

  26. 5 out of 5

    K

    When all this is over, we're going to see a lot of diaries published. This one is different - it was one of the first to be published, and it was written by a resident of Wuhan. This was not a book at first. It was a collection of diary entries written on Weibo, sometimes hours after the events she describes. The entries are sometimes repetitive, but that's what happens with diaries, or at least when writing to fill the time or as an emotional release. The author is 65 and diabetic, and she take When all this is over, we're going to see a lot of diaries published. This one is different - it was one of the first to be published, and it was written by a resident of Wuhan. This was not a book at first. It was a collection of diary entries written on Weibo, sometimes hours after the events she describes. The entries are sometimes repetitive, but that's what happens with diaries, or at least when writing to fill the time or as an emotional release. The author is 65 and diabetic, and she takes her quarantine order seriously. She records the acts of kindness and humanity by her neighbors, and she writes down stories of desperation and heartbreak - all shared on social media, and harder to verify. Wuhan is a large city, about the size of metropolitan Chicago, and seeing it completely empty and quiet is an "almost majestic” sight. Seeing the sanitation workers doing their duty is an emotional experience. There are rumors of terror and heartbreak. She hears terrible news about friends and colleagues. This is a book that's probably going to be praised more than it's read - praised because of the statements it makes, and likely because it's been attacked elsewhere on the basis that it slanders the reputation of the party, that it is based on rumors, or because her criticisms of local officials (see other reviews below). Still I wonder how many people will read it, given the emotional exhaustion of quarantine is already so deep. I think of my own relatives who are older or diabetic. When I read about events she describes in February, I thought they happened in April. The quarantine flattens out time.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Minakshi Ramji

    This is an impossible book to review.. how can one provide a review of a book by a 60yr old woman who is writing a day to day account of what it is like to be in lockdown at the epicenter of the COVID crisis? How can I say this is what she should written about while she was contemplating the end of the world ? And yet that is exactly what I am about to do. Any review will tell you this memoir focuses on accountability, the drawbacks of collective decision making, the rise of internet trolls, the This is an impossible book to review.. how can one provide a review of a book by a 60yr old woman who is writing a day to day account of what it is like to be in lockdown at the epicenter of the COVID crisis? How can I say this is what she should written about while she was contemplating the end of the world ? And yet that is exactly what I am about to do. Any review will tell you this memoir focuses on accountability, the drawbacks of collective decision making, the rise of internet trolls, the grace embodied in human relationships and good neighborliness etc. Let me be the churlish reviewer who points out what was missing in this memoir. At one point during this lockdown, I stood in the middle of an upscale mall looking at the shuttered window of a shop that casually sells dresses that cost over $1,000. That was the most horrific moment of this lockdown for me – our entire civilization appears to be underpinned by consumerism. The only way to save it is to save consumerism.. And yet is it really worth it? I appreciate that seeking refuge in philosophy is a privilege – but this is perhaps what I was seeking in a covid memoir. When if not now should we be re-examining our priorities? Fang Fang’s diary was initially posted as a series of daily dispatches in Chinese. It was much interactive in the sense that people commented on it in those online platforms and she received feedback from readers who left gifts for her and sent her messages on digital messaging channels etc. To read this in book form – one feels strongly as one reads it that it wasn’t meant to be read this way.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Night Owl

    A diary was written by a CCP retiree who quarantined in the bedroom for more than two months, based on highly repeated catchphrases like “I heard from a doctor friend”, "one of my friends texted me that", "a journalist friend secretly informed me"... It's fine if it were posted in the Whatapp Group chat for gossip juice, but a book happened in such short notice with ready-to-read translated English and Germany editions? Let alone certain rumors got fact-checked by netizens in China before the pu A diary was written by a CCP retiree who quarantined in the bedroom for more than two months, based on highly repeated catchphrases like “I heard from a doctor friend”, "one of my friends texted me that", "a journalist friend secretly informed me"... It's fine if it were posted in the Whatapp Group chat for gossip juice, but a book happened in such short notice with ready-to-read translated English and Germany editions? Let alone certain rumors got fact-checked by netizens in China before the punishment of her book like a Southen city nurse who volunteered in Wuhan died 3 times in her book (Chinese, English and Germany edition), yet turns out to be still ALIVE but fainted due to another disease. This poor nurse's colleagues and family spoke publicly for an apology. Too bad you're gonna miss that part in the book. A bit cruel to host an international funeral for somebody who's just sick rather than dead, isn't it? Kinda feel insulted to see it be recommended on Goodreads in the first place. A watched pot never boils, I'd rather hold a couple of months to see how things/facts settled down. I lean on the latest scientific reports made by Cambridge University, Nature, The Lancet etc with less biased prejudice nor overdosed politicization at this moment. In the meanwhile, one of my best friends who's currently working/living in China begs to differ from Fang fang's opinions. In case you're wondering, he's a British caucasian who has never been brainwashed by any political organizations. Feedback from him who's experienced the process of containing the COVID-19 turns to be quite the opposite. With the ultimate goal of saving more lives, yes, certain strict rules were complemented, such as compulsory home isolation, mask-wearing, and temperature checking basically everywhere you go. He's able to go out for a coffee with friends now, better than herd immunity in any possible ways. Hope more solidarity and kindness to help the human race put an end to the stressful and deadly menace. Rather than focus on some sort of biased political schemes as shown in the so called fast-food like book.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Meisen Wong

    Fang Fang's diary entries present a fair critique of the inane conformity of bureaucracy which had led to a cover-up which had contributed to massive suffering and widespread death in the Hubei province. Early measures also highlight typical incompetence of provincial and local governments when dealing with a large-scale crisis such as a pandemic. This is itself acknowledged by the central government so it makes little sense why censorship authorities and 'ultra-leftists' (I would prefer to use Fang Fang's diary entries present a fair critique of the inane conformity of bureaucracy which had led to a cover-up which had contributed to massive suffering and widespread death in the Hubei province. Early measures also highlight typical incompetence of provincial and local governments when dealing with a large-scale crisis such as a pandemic. This is itself acknowledged by the central government so it makes little sense why censorship authorities and 'ultra-leftists' (I would prefer to use the term ultra-nationalists) have to begin deleting diary entries of the author or engage in organised harassment of the author. The rest of the critiques are not unfamiliar to those who have some knowledge of Chinese society and issues of governance. What is heartening (and not reported by Western media) is socialities generated in a society under lockdown where care and welfare are people-driven rather than a state-directive; residents can be both critical and display social discipline, and technology can also be a platform for welfare and community. It does get incredibly repetitive by the halfway point.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jackie

    Wuhan was under quarantine for corona virus for about 65 days from the end of January to the end of March and reopened when there had been zero cases for 14 days. We have been under lock down for 80 days from mid March until June 6 so far and still have many thousands of cases and people dying. We can learn a lot from Wuhan's experience though I doubt that we will. After reading this book I want to know more abut China's education system and the type of housing they have. They seem to keep very Wuhan was under quarantine for corona virus for about 65 days from the end of January to the end of March and reopened when there had been zero cases for 14 days. We have been under lock down for 80 days from mid March until June 6 so far and still have many thousands of cases and people dying. We can learn a lot from Wuhan's experience though I doubt that we will. After reading this book I want to know more abut China's education system and the type of housing they have. They seem to keep very close contact with their school friends, high school and college. And even speaking about Dorm 8. The author speaks about her classmates most of all. Also she speaks of colleagues, other writers. It seems that she lives in a building which houses mostly other literary writers. I wonder if other professions live together in similar housing blocks. The support she receives from these friends is unbelievable. We really know so little of Chinese culture.

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