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To the Edge of the Sky: A Story of Love, Betrayal, Suffering and the Strength of Human Courage

‘I wanted to tell the whole world the truth about China. People living outside didn’t really understand

what happened – because my parents died a long time ago I could not do my duty and look after them.

 I was too young. So I have written a book for them.’

Despite suffering terrible heartache, loss and pain growing up in communist China, Anhua Gao found courage, hope and, eventually, love. This is her story: the story of a woman who, whether she tried to live with or struggle against the harsh ideology of Red China, was treated with shocking inhumanity.

When her parents died, leaving Anhua and her siblings orphans, they were hailed by Mao Tse Tung as revolutionary martyrs. But her parents' reputation proved a fragile shield from the horrors of communist China. Her life torn apart by the whims of the state, Anhua found herself alone — something she fully realised when, after serving with distinction as a nurse in the Red Army, her own sister betrayed her, blighting her future. Ill-treated for years by her cruel husband, she was then thrown into jail when the security police accused her of being an enemy agent because she spoke English. While there she not only experienced appalling deprivation and bore witness to hideous torture, but was completely isolated from her young daughter – not even being told who was caring for her.

Moving, sometimes shocking, but always compelling, this is the tale of someone who, against unbelievable odds, survived and, finally, found a happiness she had not dared to hope for.


“She tells the by-now-familiar tale afresh, with a candid humility and patient lovingness that regularly snatched at this reader’s heart.”

The Independent

“Painful to read but difficult to put down, the book explains China's recent history through fascinating and harrowing personal accounts.”

Publishers Weekly

“An authentic survivor’s story, more disturbing and awe-inspiring than any TV reality show.”

Kirkus Reviews

“The book is an excellent account of life during and before the reign of Mao Tse-Tung. Her story of the brutality, inhumane treatment, poverty, and countless and unnecessary death by a ruling monster is shocking and horrifying, while her accounts of the strength of the Chinese people and the hunger, hardships, and horrible life they live, but somehow survive is daunting. To the Edge of the Sky is a beautiful book and should be read by everyone interested in Chinese history and culture.”

Jill Dobbe - Reviewer

“A well written, vivid account.”

Brigitt Amthor - Educator

“This is an exhilarating read. It’s emotive, it’s beautiful and it’s shocking, but Anhua’s serenity and strength shine through. A must read.”

Tracy Shephard - reviewer

“A real eye-opener on what life was like in China.”

Jacqui Sinclair - Reviewer

“There are highs and lows, tears and laughter in this beautifully descriptive book. To find out what really happened in China in the 20th Century and how it affected Anhua is incredible. A really touching read.”

Echoes in an Empty Room

“A remarkable human story, written from the heart.”

Jung Chang, author of Wild Swans.

“A fascinating and moving memoir of life in twentieth-century China. Anhua Gao brings one family’s experiences to life with her vivid descriptions of personal and historical events. Thoroughly recommended reading.”

Nicky Harman, literary translator.

“Thanks to the author for revealing one of the darkest periods in Chinese history with her personal experience and elaborate writing. As an old man who has gone through the notorious Cultural Revolution, her story is by no means unfamiliar to me. I strongly recommend this book to the younger generations. Anhua’s touching story will keep warning us the tragic consequences of tyrannical rule, and constantly remind us that we should do our utmost to prevent our children from suffering what young Anhua had suffered.”

Gao Chao, professor of Nanjing University, China

“Despite her hard work, good marks in school and loyalty to China, Anhua Gao finally falls prey to the persecution.  She watches many family members and friends betrayed first.  One injustice piled on another, she is all the more determined to use her English skills and get to Britain at any cost.  Hers is not simply an escape story;  this is also the tale of finding friendship and dedication, solidarity and hope that can’t be destroyed no matter the political circumstances.”

Midwest Book Review

“I have read many books about this time in China's history.  This is one of the best.  I would recommend this to anyone who has read, loved and been inspired by the classic Wild Swans.”

Ann Applin - Reviewer

“An incredible story. I am praying that this means a follow up book is planned. Please, Anhua?”

Kate Southey - Reviewer

“I would highly recommend this to anyone interested in China around 1940s-1990s. I learned a lot and came away with a better understanding of what China was like, both during and after the Chinese Revolution and Cultural Revolution.”


“A poignant and powerful story, this is definitely not a book you can read lightly. Vivid descriptions… An eye-opening look inside China.”

Liliyana Shadowlyn (Reviewer)

“Anhua Gao’s life, as she narrates it, is a prism of Chinese Communist contradictions.  Her story is not anti-Communist nor anti-Chinese, rather, a straightforward, chronological account of her history set in a larger context.  Her parents model the ideals of Communism — hard work, education, equality and honor among them — but as she grows older, she watches these ideals crushed beneath Mao’s rigid regime. Hers is not simply an escape story; this is also the tale of finding friendship and dedication, solidarity and hope that can’t be destroyed no matter the political circumstances.”

Mari’s Book Reviews

“I was enthralled by this book… it is a fascinating read.”

Bethany Younge (Reviewer)

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