The best books with revolutionary background that stir your heart

John Xiao Zhang Author Of Sailing Across the Red Storm
By John Xiao Zhang

Who am I?

I am a retired lecturer at Southampton University, but used to live in China for many years. I experienced the horrible Chinese Cultural Revolution between the 1960s and 1970s, which was similar to Stalin’s Great Purges. I was put in jail and suffered cruel torture. So personally, I can more understand how, in all revolutionary movement, people were struggling with the threat of death and hopelessness; how they were torn between the new value of the revolution and the damage to the existing moral system; and how the strength of humanity could shine in the bloody darkness of terror.

I wrote...

Sailing Across the Red Storm

By John Xiao Zhang,

Book cover of Sailing Across the Red Storm

What is my book about?

This trilogy is a deeply moving tale set during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. A love story in the Romeo and Juliet style. This compelling historical novel recounts the suffering and ordeals of a handsome and talented young man, together with his lovers, friends, and family, throughout the cataclysm of this revolution. Overcoming these trials, they gain strength from love, friendship and self-sacrifice; they bravely overcome hardship and suffering, strive for hope and a brighter future.

Through rich character portrayal and meticulous description, the readers will gain a panoramic view of this huge historic event and insight not only into this turbulent era, but also into the strength of humanity as it shines brightest in the darkness of the great terror.

The books I picked & why

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A Tale of Two Cities

By Charles Dickens,

Book cover of A Tale of Two Cities

Why this book?

This is the very famous historical romance of Charles Dickens which describes the terrifying French Revolution. In the novel, Dickens verifies the historical plausibility of the Revolution. But he also condemns the inhuman persecution and execution. The book vividly describes the terrifying scene of the revolution and variety of characters who have different attitudes towards the revolution. Many readers are deeply moved by the self-sacrifice and heroism of Sydney Carton who bravely faced the scuff in order to save the happiness of the woman he loved.


By Victor Hugo,

Book cover of Ninety-Three

Why this book?

This is the last of Hugo’s novels, but regarded as his greatest work. In the book, the author meticulously describes the bloody fighting between the Republic and Royalist during the French Revolution. The monarchist revolt in the Vendee was brutally suppressed by the Republic. The emotional struggle of the three main characters gives readers a heartbroken impact, which shows that these characters were torn between political values and their conscience.

A Place of Greater Safety

By Hilary Mantel,

Book cover of A Place of Greater Safety

Why this book?

A compelling historical fiction with the background of the French Revolution. The book describes the three main figures from the outside province to Paris who made the agitated and bloody history. Camille was related to the capture of Bastille; Danton made the execution of Louis XVI and Robespierre—the Terror. They enjoyed the happiness of power, but also paid a heavy price for it. We can see how humanity was lost in the turbulent revolutionary storm. 

Doctor Zhivago

By Boris Pasternak, Richard Pevear (translator), Larissa Volokhonsky

Book cover of Doctor Zhivago

Why this book?

This is the well-known Russian historical romance fiction with the background of the Russian communist revolution. The book shows how Russian intellectuals were puzzled in the revolution. They welcome the revolution, but later were confused with the poverty and bloody chaos caused by the revolution. The cruel political struggle, like a huge wheel, was rolling on all people including the innocent ones. The author described the truth of the revolution. The love story is a tragedy caused by the fate of the time

And Quiet Flows the Don

By Mikhail Sholokhov,

Book cover of And Quiet Flows the Don

Why this book?

It is a compelling epic of the bloody Russian Revolution to show how Don Cossack suffered and fought during World War I, the Russian Revolution, and the following civic war. The love story is beautiful and moving. The main character Grigori was moving between the White and Red army, with pain and daze. Like other Cossack people, he was torn between royalty and betrayal, right and wrong, justice and barbarism.

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