I've given up... cried uncle! This book could have been half the length and nothing would have been lost -- which means that half the time I spent reading it was spent wondering: 'why am I doing this'. Those with more patience may have better luck.
(this book is not well written -- surprising given that the author is a successful journalist -- you can sometimes see the author's workshop peering through the prose -- and it is not a well-stocked shop. The book also has a certain gossipy tone to it, and the author's judgment certainly is not mature. I am a bit surprised, given the great blurbs on the book cover.... I'm currently reading the section on the 1930s and 40s. For a much richer treatment of this period in Chinese history, see this book, which is really superb: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/113978.The_Origins_of_the_Second_World_War_in_Asia_and_the_Pacific)
I am not generally a great fan of biographies... I feel that the need to approach broad historical topics from the vantage point of the individual under consideration distorts the writing -- even down to the level of the paragraph -- as writers of biography often tend to approach their topics ass-backwards, using some anecdote as a launching pad for a macro-oriented observation, whereas they should proceed from a general consideration of the topic, and then introduce the anecdote in confirmation.
That aside, this book is not too bad -- it is informative, certainly -- and reads very well.
But the author downplays some of the harsher aspects of her subject. Basically, it's a bit hard to be overly sympathetic to an author who is fundamentally sympathetic to heroines (and heroes) who are not themselves very sympathetic: http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/warstat2.htm#Nationalist
According to Tyson Li, the Chiang - like their early school for orphaned military children - "were a mild version of the Hitler Jugend and Mussolini's Fascist Youth, with an ethos comprising a puzzling mixture of Chinese, American, Christian [i.e., of the YMCA-New Life Movement variety -- AC:], and fascist thinking - in short, very much a product of Mayling's own curious blend of experience" (89)...
... and that seems to sit fine with Tyson Li.
At any rate, I will keep reading it...