May 3, 2010

Book Review: Pearl of China by Anchee Min

Pearl of China: A Novel by Anchee Min (Hardcover - March 30, 2010)

Very moving; excellent writing. I learned a lot about the China that author Pearl Buck grew up in and left, its history from the 1880s to after Nixon's visit and China's admission to the U.N. in the early 1980s. About 100 years of history, plus a fictional account of Buck's friendships in her former home in China, where she lived with her missionary parents, Absalom and Carie Sydenstricker.

The author weaves Pearl Buck's life into the historical novel, which is about the friendship between a young girl, Willow, whom Pearl meets in the small town of Chin-Kiang. This friendship continues into adulthood, through Pearl's marriage to Lossing Buck,  and even after the writer left China for good. The friendship lasts through the Boxer Revolution and anti-foreign sentiment, through the war with Japan, the Communist Revolution, and even to the time of Pearl's death in the U.S. in the 1980s. Anchee Kim has changed the dates of some of the historical events for the sake of her fiction, but she has kept the flavor of China, and certainly brought me to tears with her accounts of the kinds of atrocities that happened during  the Cultural Revolution.

Most moving of all was that Pearl was not granted a visa to accompany President Nixon on his historic visit to China in 1972. She was not allowed to return there after almost 40 years' absence, in spite of her sympathetic and moving depictions of the ordinary Chinese peasants in books such as The Good Earth.  Madame Mao, the instigator and leader of the Cultural Revolution, blocked her visit saying the country had declared Pearl, who openly opposed Mao, an "American imperialist." Pearl Buck died in Pennsylania in 1973 at age 81, not long after Nixon's visit to China.

Beautifully written and heart rending in parts, Pearl in China is a deserving homage to the Nobel Prize-winning author, Pearl S. Buck.

Challenges: 100+ Reading Challenge, China Challenge, Support your Local Library Challenge

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  1. Sounds like a very inspiring book. She must have been heartbroken that she couldn't return to China.

    Thoughts in Progress

  2. I really want to read Pearl of China. Thanks for the great review- I'm glad you enjoyed it so much!

  3. This sounds like a very interesting book that I would enjoy reading. I really should make time for this one. It's going on my list!

  4. This sounds like a beautiful book that I am definitely going to have to read. Thanks for the review!

  5. This sounds like an excellent story about Buck. I loved The Good Earth and learning about other countries/cultures is always fascinating.

  6. Sounds great Harvee! She's one of my favorite authors anyway and I love good biographies -- even fictionalized ones -- of writers. Thanks for another fine review.

  7. This one is on my WL. I've not read anything by this author or Pearl S. Buck. Sounds like I'm in for a treat!


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