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Pearl of China

A Novel

By Anchee Min

Pearl of China
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  • Hardcover: Mar 2010,
    288 pages.
    Paperback: Mar 2011,
    304 pages.

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Mary R. (Eagan, Minnesota) (02/01/10)

Pearl of China by Anchee Min
I was disappointed in this book because I have read other books by Min that are much better. The historical background on Pearl of China was fascinating. However, this book felt as if Min was trying to cram too much historical fact into the narrative without a compelling story to pad the facts. The characters seemed flat and the story seemed shallow. The book is very short for the topic. It's a light read and a fine story but I was hoping for a much deeper look into the life of an American girl/woman in China during troubled times.
Betty S. (Jasper, GA) (02/01/10)

Pearl of China
Pearl Buck was one of my favorite authors when I was growing up. This novel, narrated by her fictional best friend, Willow Lee, tells the story of her life and happenings in China in the 1900s. it is filled with dramatic events, but is told with such stoicism that ultimately the reader is unmoved. It's worth reading if you're interested in Pearl Buck or modern-day China, but not for the story of Willow Lee.
Carol T. (Ankeny, Iowa) (02/01/10)

Pearl of China - a jewel of a book
Excellent on all counts: characters, pacing, sense of time and place, narrator. Pearl of China would be a good addition to an Asian history class for any age. Makes me want to dig out my copy of The Good Earth. Did Willow Yee actually exist? If not, she should have.
Mary O. (Boston, MA) (02/01/10)

Remarkable friendship
The ups and downs of Chinese history are very painful but a great backdrop to this story. It is a beautiful story about an enduring friendship between two very different souls that defied all odds. It brought tears to my eyes as it explored the changes in China as a result of Maoism and the unrelenting persecution of dissenters. What is most gripping is that the author was a first hand participant in China as it was going through the red revolution. An excellent read!
Amy O. (Scottsdale, AZ) (02/01/10)

Tribute to Buck's Love for China
I give "Pearl of China" five stars. Told through the voices of Pearl and her best friend Willow, it is joyful, bittersweet and heartbreaking in its portrayal of the lives of the Chinese people and Pearl S. Buck. Pearl and Willow grow up in each others company and although their lives reflect the upheavals in the Chinese political and social landscape there is a very human element throughout. All of the characters: Pearl's single-minded missionary father, her strong but neglected mother, Willow, the poet-lover and others all are painted with a vivid brush which draws you to them. It has been a long time since I first read Pearl S. Buck's "The Good Earth" and saw the movie. I am glad that we again can share in her life and stories and perhaps introduce a new generation to this important author. It would be great I think to have a new movie version made of The Good Earth. I am also left wondering how people in China today feel about Pearl.
Martha L. (Warner, NH) (02/01/10)

Tribute to forever friends
A national icon, a literary spirit and a woman who knew how to be Chinese all describe Pearl S. Buck. Anchee Min has written a new book called Pearl of China, coming out in April, about Pearl’s early life in China. While the book is nominally about Willow Lee and her life long best friend Pearl S. Buck and their families, it is really a tribute to the mutual devotion of a people. Pearl's early life and her love for China and its people sing out from the pages in the midst the War with the Japanese and the Civil War. The main characters struggle to survive while finding the beauty in the language of poetry and writings of the Cultural Revolution.

This book was a miracle of words. Anchee Min is a gifted writer whose skills bring the reader along her journey. The readers are brought through the years, wars and changes in China. While the book may seem to focus on Pearl S Buck, to me the real heroine was that of Willow Lee and her undying dedication to Pearl S Buck.
Kristen H. (Baltimore, MD) (01/30/10)

Pearl of China
It is very difficult to write books putting actions and words into the mouths of actual historical figures. Few authors do it well. Pearl of China is an exception. Not only do the characters feel complete and real, but the author managed to transmit a feeling that it was a real memoir from a real woman who had actually known Pearl Buck. While Buck is certainly a pivotal character in the book, the real strength of the story is an exploration of the descent of China into Maoism and the persecution of dissenters. I did wonder, throughout, whether the narrator had been a real person, and how many of the actions and people she described were real - and whether this was more of a history couched in fiction than pure fiction. This uncertainty is the book's strength - although I wish that there were some note at the beginning or end to explain where fiction and history live in the story. Was there really a Willow? Not knowing much about Buck or China, I don't know. On the other hand, I am now inspired to find out - which may be the highest recommendation I can give.
Gunta K. (Glens Falls, NY) (01/30/10)

An indomitable spirit
(This review contains plot spoilers)

This book is a treat. Pearl was born in the last part of the eighteen hundreds to a missionary father and a long suffering mother. Her father treated her as a regular parishioner of his church, rather than a daughter. From early childhood on, Pearl and Willow, both living in same village, became inseparable friends. Pearl was used to accepting reality so Willow's destitute, full of thieves, family circumstances did not in any way impact the friendship. Pearl's curiosity about everything around her, combined with her intense blue eyes and cascading blonde hair made her stand out among the villagers. She wore a black knitted cap, every day, regardless of the weather, so she would fit in among the villagers. The two girls were each other's strength as well as sounding boards.

Time marched on. Japan penetrated into China and took Manchuria. The girls became teenagers ,then young adults. There was a great deal of political persecution everywhere in China. WIllow got a job as a type of underground journalist. Meantime, Pearl was putting her feelings, her observations, her soul on paper. She wrote dozens of short stories, political columns and novels. Finally Pearl had the opportunity to study at university in America. Of course Willow was left behind. They corresponded by letter. Their friendship endured, grew, became an unbreakable bond. Pearl was married and had a child, mentally challenged. Pearl dealt with this blow as she had dealt with all other adversity in her life. In 1932 Pearl won the Pulitzer Prize for "The Good Earth" and in 1938 she won the Nobel Prize for Literature. There were many who very envious, in China and the USA, included a well known American author who was quoted as saying " if a woman can win the Nobel Prize for Literature, anyone can" . Pearl S. Buck wrote eighty books. She is still today read in a hundred countries, in their native language. Her favorite quote was of Madame Curie " the weak waits for opportunity, the strong one creates". Pearl S. Buck was denied an entrance visa by the Chinese government when President Nixon wanted her to accompany him on his visit to China. A few years later Pearl died, she was in her eighties. She is buried on her estate in Pennsylvania. Her grave is surrounded by trees, plants and flowers which she loved as part of her Chinese heritage. In her books Pearl depicts the life and strife of Chinese women of times gone by, yet true to history of China.

I highly recommend this book as it gives one a bird's eyes view of a great woman and a talented writer. A woman who never loved for herself. I also recommend one pick up a couple of Pearl's titles and lose themselves in a world we can not even imagine.

Beyond the Book:
  Pearl S. Buck

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