Book Review || Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

book-review-battle-hymn-of-the-tiger-mother-blurbThis was a book lent to me by my very good friend Sally, who actually bought extra copies so that she could give them to her friends. I read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother quite quickly, but it wasn’t anything as I expected. When it was first released apparently this book caused quite a hoo-har both in the US and over here.

The general jist is a semi-autobiographical novel documenting a mothers struggle to give her children in a fundamentally Chinese upbringing whilst living in Westernised America. The Chinese approach to raising children follows these basic rules:

  • Schoolwork always comes first
  • Anything lower than an A* is a bad grade
  • Children must be 2 years ahead of their classmates in maths
  • Children must never be complimented in public, and rarely complicated full stop
  • If your child has a disagreement with a coach or teacher, the parents must always take the side of the coach or teacher
  • The only activities a child should be permitted to do are competitive and those which they can win a medal…
  • …and that medal must be gold.

The story follows Amy and Jed, plus their two daughters, Sophia and Louisa (and their two dogs too). Jed, being bred as an American Jew, has a very different parenting style to Amy, who chose to adopt the strict and quite shocking style you become quickly accustomed to throughout the novel from the girls as toddlers, well into their teens.

Although with their first child, Sophia, the Chinese ideals seem to go smoothly and she grows up a model daughter/pupil/pianist, the road is not quite as smooth for their second daughter, Lou Lou, who rebels continuously from age 3. The Chinese upbringing in Chua’s household forbids play dates, complaining at lack of play dates, playing any instrument other than the piano or violin and coming anywhere other than top of the class in all academic subjects.

When Lou Lou starts to learn the violin and has incredible natural talent, it is a continuous battle between mother and daughter, often extending practice sessions into entire days of arguments. It’s not all doom and gloom and the girls both have moments of enjoyment and joy through successes with their instruments, but the struggle prior to these just doesn’t seem worth it.

I can see the sentiment for Amy wishing the very best for her children, and understanding just how difficult it is to compete in the current economic world, but I found a lot of her ideas about parenting difficult to tolerate. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother was interesting in terms of learning about the difference in cultures, but I did find it quite repetitive and frustrating – some of the things Amy said to her children were outrageous and I was amazed that a) her children still seemed to like her and b) her husband Jed didn’t step in more and stop her being so awful to them.

An interesting read, but in future  think I’ll be sticking to more gripping novels rather than semi-autobiographical stories about bringing up daughters.

Rating: 6/10

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