Book Review: Forgotten Ally: China’s World War II

I picked this book up by complete happenstance at the library. I was browsing through the nonfiction world history section and I came across this book. It intrigued me, being a huge fan of any book dealing with WWII. Up until now, I never thought of China being involved much with that particular war or the first world war. All I knew is that Japan had invaded much of China prior to Pearl Harbor.

Published in 2013, this nonfiction book explains what was happening with China from the turn of the century all the way until the end of the second world war. It is one of the most detailed and fascinating historical books I have ever read.

Rana Mitter, a professor of the History and Politics of Modern China at the University of Oxford and St. Cross College, does an exceptional job in introducing the most important historical figures without confusing the reader with too many names.

In so many nonfiction books, I find the author throws in tons of names and gives little emphasis to context. I don’t want to be shown simply one topic. I want to know the context for that topic with what was going on with the rest of the world. This author did an exceptional job with this.

In most of my book reviews, I give a non-spoiler section and a spoiler section. However, since this is nonfiction and spoilers don’t really make sense, I am just giving a big block review. Apologies if you prefer more of a divided format.

Anyway, where was I…

There are so many things Mitter talks about in this book which I had never heard of before. Of course some things are famous. For example, the book goes in depth into Chiang Kai-Shek (the leader of China during WWII, belonging to the Nationalist party) as well as Mao Zedong (the future dictator of China and leader of the Communist party during WWII). The book discusses famous incidents, like the Massacre of Nanking, the Battle of Shanghai, and later the Japanese pulling out of China due to their losing the war with the Allies.

However, there were also a lot of things I had never heard of before. For example, the fact that China sent thousands of troops to help the Allies in WWI in hopes of getting back territory controlled by Britain. However, after they won the war in Europe (at the cost of many lies), Britain instead gave the land to the Japanese, who they had also promised the land in exchange of troops. I mean…good job, Britain, in helping Japan take over China.

I will admit, the later parts of the book were a little boring to me, just because I don’t care that much about the details of particular battles. However, even in this Mitter does a good job moving on quickly to more interesting topics than battle strategies, so I didn’t get too bored.

So, what’s my conclusion?

I absolutely loved this book! If you are fond of learning about WWII, I highly recommend it. It took me over a week to read (I usually read a book like this in two days) because it was so dense and detailed I just couldn’t bear to skim it. I highly recommend it!

Best wishes in your life full of adventure,

Madame Writer

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