"The Promise" like all Buck's books I have read that are set in China, gives a compelling portrait of the country and its people. Set during the early years of World War II when the Japanese army was pounding the Burma Road, "The Promise" relates the story of a brave division of Chinese who have been sent on a suicide mission to rescue the remnants of an Anglo-American force trapped in Burma. There are a couple of telling portraits of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek and his wife that show them in all their venality; their remoteness from the individual masses of Chinese arouses more contempt than admiration. What really affects the reader is the disdain of the Anglo soldiers toward the Chinese who attempt to rescue them and whom, in their desperation to escape from the Japanese, they abandon to their fate, cutting off their retreat and leaving them to save themselves. The open contempt the English express towards the native Burmese ("We own this country, after all; it's part of our Empire"), and their genuine puzzlement when the Chinese confront them about their attitudes, shows up all too clearly their inherent sense of superiority which is based on nothing but a blind ethnocentricism. Buck's sympathies clearly lie with the valiant Chinese who are seething under a viciously brutal Japanese occupation and longing for freedom, but not at the price of European domination. We don't get to know her characters in "The Promise" as intimately as in some of her other books, but we admire them none the less for their courage and their self-sacrifice. "The Promise" is not on a par with "The Good Earth" or "The Three Daughters of Madame Liang", but it's definitely a worthwhile read.