In the small southern town of Chin-kiang, in the last days of the nineteenth century, two young girls bump heads and become thick as thieves. Willow is the only child of a destitute family, Pearl the headstrong daughter of zealous Christian missionaries. She will ultimately become the internationally renowned author Pearl S. Buck, but for now she is just a girl embarrassed by her blonde hair and enchanted by her new Chinese friend. The two embark on a friendship that will sustain both of them through one of the most tumultuous periods in Chinese history.
Moving out into the world together, the two enter the intellectual fray of the times, share love interests and survive early marriages gone bad. Their shared upbringing inspires Pearl's novels, which celebrate the life of the Chinese peasant and will eventually earn her both a Pulitzer and a Nobel Prize. But when a civil war erupts between the Nationalists and Communists, Pearl is forced to flee the country just ahead of angry mobs. Willow, despite close ties to Maos inner circle, is punished for loyalty to her 'cultural imperialist' friend. And yet, through love and loss, heartbreak and joy, exile and imprisonment, the two women remain intimately entwined.
In this ambitious new novel, Anchee Min brings to life a courageous and passionate woman who is now hailed in China as a modern heroine. Like nothing before it, Pearl of China tells the story of one of the twentieth centurys greatest writers, from the perspective of the people she loved and of the land she called home.
With 30 out of 35 reviewers rating it 4 or 5 stars, Pearl of China is a top pick amongst BookBrowse readers! Here's what they have to say:
This book was a miracle of words. Anchee Min is a gifted writer whose skills bring the reader along on her journey. While the book may seem to focus on Pearl S. Buck, to me the real heroine was Willow Lee and her undying dedication to her friend (Martha L). At times, I found myself responding to the novel as if the events really happened. The words are beautiful, especially the poetry that is interspersed throughout the book (Trezeline B). (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).
San Francisco Chronicle
"Min skillfully blends real historical figures... with fictional characters to authenticate the story's social and political context... [Pearl of China] pays worthy homage to Pearl Buck’s legacy."
"[T]old with a haunting quality only Anchee Min can deliver... this rewarding read passes far too quickly."
A straightforward biography would have served better than this flat, hagiographic narrative.
Though the setting and revolutionary backdrop are inherently dramatic, Min's account of an epic friendship is curiously low-key, with some sections reading more like a treatment than a narrative.
Starred Review. Min’s fresh and penetrating interpretation of Pearl S. Buck’s extraordinary life delivers profound psychological, spiritual, and historical insights within an unforgettable cross-cultural story of a quest for veracity, compassion, and justice.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Judy Read this book This was a marvelous book. The book gives you a clear picture of a China's conversion to communism, painful and violent as it was. I loved this book.
Rated of 5
by Louise J Compelling and Perhaps the next Classic! Willow Yee lived in Chin-kiang, a small town far away from the city of Peking, on the south side of the Yangtze River in Jiangsu province. She lived there with her father and grandmother, Nai Nai. Her mother had died after her father rented her... Read More
Rated of 5
by Shannon R. (Sunburst, MT) I felt like I was there I love this novel!!! I felt that I was there in China with Pearl Buck growing up right along side her. This is writing at it's best! I loved the honesty that the author wrote with regarding life in China after the Boxer Rebellion and during the... Read More
Rated of 5
by Darlene M. (Rancho Mirage, CA) PEARL OF CHINA Pearl of China is literally a Jewel of a book. It brings new meaning to family, friendship, love and loss. A friendship that lasts a lifetime. My bookclub focused on Pearl Buck's The Good Earth and Sons last year and this will be a perfect book to... Read More
Rated of 5
by Claire G. (Merrimack, NH) Pearl of China by Anchee Min I chose this book because I really knew nothing about Pearl Buck and her life in China. It follows the lives of two girls, Pearl and Willow growing up in rural China as it evolves through to the Cultural Revolution of Mao. The details of the... Read More
Rated of 5
by Jo K. (Saratoga, CA) Not her best, but very good. I would heartily recommend this book for any book club especially in combination with reading "The Good Earth" and "Red Azalea" (both of which I loved)...I think to have read all three would make for an incredible and animated discussion that would... Read More
Pearl Sydenstricker Buck (born June 26, 1892 in Hillsboro, West Virginia) was an important and much lauded American writer, famous for her depictions of China and Chinese culture, which earned her a Pulitzer Prize in 1932 for the novel The Good Earth and the first Nobel Prize awarded to an American woman for Literature in 1938 "for her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China and for her biographical masterpieces".
She grew up in the town of Chenchiang, China and was raised by missionary parents until, at 15-years-old, she was sent to Shanghai to attend boarding school. She later enrolled at Randolph-Macon Woman's College in Virginia where she graduated with the class of 1914 with a bachelor's degree. After graduation, she traveled back to China and, with the exception of her brief time at Cornell University where she received her master's degree in 1926, lived there until...
Steeped in traditions and ritual, this story brings to life another time and place even the intricate realm of the afterworld, with its protocols, pathways, and stages of existence. Ultimately, Lisa Sees new novel addresses universal themes: the bonds of friendship, the power of words, and the age-old desire of women to be heard.
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