Book Review: Walking a Tightrope by Olivia Cox-Fill

History buffs! Are you ready to step back in time in China? Here we go!

Goodreads Blurb

Walking a Tightrope: Memories of Wu Jeiping, personal physician to China’s leaders by Olivia Cox-Fill

When Dr Wu Jieping was selected by Chinese Premier Zhou En lai as his personal physician, he had little choice in the matter though it transformed his life, not always in a positive way. Olivia Cox-Fill got to know Dr Wu Jieping following the death of Zhou En Lai and while Mao’s wife was still in prison. He had attended several of China’s leaders, including Premier Zhou En Lai, Chairman Mao, Liu Shao Chi and Madame Mao.

Over a period of three years, Olivia Cox-Fill interviewed Dr Wu and gathered vivid and unique recollections of his contacts with the Chinese leadership. But Wu specified that none of these memories should be published until after his death, which occurred in 2011, since its frank revelations would leas to state repercussions.

The memoir reveals the appalling conditions in China as experienced by one of its most famous doctors, who carried out research into TB and kidney cancer while attending to the health of the country’s leaders. It also shows what it took to survive in Communist China at a time when most leading intellectuals were expelled to the countryside, imprisoned or beaten to death.



I agreed to review Walking a Tightrope because I know very little of China’s history, and because I wanted some juicy gossip. Juicy gossip I did get but not as much as I had imagined. I thought this book would focus solely on Dr Wu’s time working for the Chinese Premier. However, this is a more complete memoir, which begins right at Dr. Wu’s childhood and brings us through his education, time in American and his career as a physician. This was much more interesting than some gossip about a Chinese Premier and his wife.

Saying that, Walking a Tightrope is not solely an account of Dr Wu’s life either. The book is split in two parts: the first is Dr Wu’s personal account of his life and the second is the author filling the reader in on what was going on in China at the time. The chapters flip between both meaning the reader has enough context to enjoy Dr Wu’s story, as well as learn a lot about China at the time (if you are as ignorant as I was about Chinese history this is great).

While I normally don’t pick up memoirs, or history books for that matter, I found a lot of value from reading Walking on a Tightrope.

Pick up your copy of Walking on a Tightrope here.

I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

*affiliate link

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