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