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Pearl of China Paperback – 12 May 2011

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Paperbacks (12 May 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408809796
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408809792
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 42,875 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'A powerful paean to love and friendship' (Daily Mail)

'Full of sudden folkloric reversals, hair's breadth escapes and magical last-minute reprieves ... Min's book goes further transforming the real Buck into a Chinese heroine, brave, beautiful, faithful and true.' (Hilary Spurling, Sunday Times)

'Superbly touching and full of brilliant details' (Reader's Digest)

Book Description

From the bestselling author of Red Azalea and Empress Orchid comes the poignant story of a friendship of a lifetime

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Elka on 30 May 2010
Format: Paperback
I already knew that Pearl Buck was a real person before I read this book, The Good Earth is on my bookshelves although unread so far, but I knew nothing about her. This book has certainly whetted my appetite to go and search for it and read it sooner than I might otherwise have.

Despite the title though , the book is really about and narrated by her fictional best friend Willow Yee, who to my mind leads a far more interesting and volatile life than Pearl. The book provided interesting insights into the Cultural Revolution , Mao's betrayals and Madame Mao's character.

However I think the book was let down by the writing style, it told a story rather than showed it and the characterisations were thin. The excessive amount of references to Christianity and how every piece of good luck was God's work alienated me too and felt laboured.
A must-read I guess for any Pearl Buck/Anchee Min fan but otherwise perhaps a disappointment.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Cameron-Smith TOP 500 REVIEWER on 24 May 2010
Format: Paperback
'One slip in tone and `Good morning' becomes `Let us go to bed together'.'

While this novel is constructed around the early life of Pearl S. Buck in China, she is only part of the unfolding story. The protagonist is a fictional Chinese girl named Willow, the only child of a destitute family living in Chin-kiang at the end of the 19th century. Pearl Sydenstricker was the elder daughter of zealous Christian missionaries from America stationed in China. Pearl and Willow become good friends, and this friendship is sustained through the disruption caused by the Boxer Rebellion in 1900 and Pearl's removal first to Shanghai and then to the USA for education.

Time moves on: both Willow and Pearl marry and live very different lives. The novel touches on Pearl's later life, but increasingly it becomes a story of Willow and a China in uproar - especially after the Nanking Incident in 1927. Pearl left China permanently in 1934, and was not allowed to return. China's 20th century history is woven into the novel and through Willow's eyes we experience the turmoil of the civil war, and the rise of Mao.

I have mixed feelings about this novel. I enjoyed the introduction to Pearl's early life and liked the character of Willow as a link to Pearl but also as a narrator of the changes in China. Pearl's role changed over the course of the novel: at the beginning she had a clear, vibrant role. By the end Pearl's influence, but not her presence was the defining force. But perhaps that is the key: this is a novel and those who want to know more about Pearl S.Buck will find other sources. Those who want to know more about `her' China need look no further than her novels.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Christian on 30 July 2011
Format: Paperback
I almost didn't buy the book as the reviews on here were quite negative, and I was very pleasantly surprised by it.

As I didn't know Pearl Buck, and very little about the Mao years, I found this book very interesting and well written.

The angle of the Christian missionary and how Willow's father adapts Christianity to make it more palatable for the Chinese is actually very funny and not boring at all. I especially liked the discussion about how "fat" Jesus should be depicted to look more like a local god.

The characters were very well described (I loved Absalom and the contrast to Willow's father - "my father is a crook, and your father is a nut") and believable.

Just thought I'd stick up for the author as I really enjoyed reading the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By DubaiReader VINE VOICE on 24 July 2013
I listened to the Audible version of this book and therefore did not have a cover to inform me that this was a biographical novel. It was not until I was about a third of the way through that the penny dropped and it gradually dawned on me that I was reading the life story of Pearl S.Buck.

Sadly, I have never read any of Ms Bucks writng, though there are three of her books lurking in my shelves. However, I had obiviously heard of her, and once I realised the significance of the characters, this novel took on a whole new meaning.

In an interview by KPBS, Anchee Min relates how she came to write this book about a character who had been considered persona non-grata by the Chinese authorities during her teens (1971). Ms Min was amazed to discover that Pearl Buck actually loved Chinese peasants and didn't hate the Chinese at all. Thus Anchee Min's appetitie was whetted and Pearl of China is the result.

It did, however, seem to be more about Pearl's (fictional?) friend, Willow, than about Pearl herself. Willow is from a poor family and is used in the novel to illustrate the lives of this strata of the population during the revolution that resulted in Mao's rise to power.

Pearl Buck was from a missionary family and the book covers the fall of the Christian Church under the leadership of overseas missionaries. Interestingly, this is correlated in the book I am currently reading, The Woman Who Lost China by Rhiannon Jenkins Tsang.
After Pearl left China in 1934 she was never again allowed to return, which distressed her greatly. America was an alien place to her, and she considered China to be her home.

My one complaint about the book was the emphasis on Pearl's friend Willow, otherwise an interesting listen.

Also read:
Empress Orchid by Anchee Min (4 stars)
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