BookBrowse Reviews Pearl of China by Anchee Min

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Pearl of China

A Novel

by Anchee Min

Pearl of China by Anchee Min X
Pearl of China by Anchee Min
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    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Mar 2010, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2011, 304 pages

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A compassionate novel about friendship, Chinese culture, and one of time's greatest author-activists, Pearl S. Buck

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 is 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). I did wonder throughout whether the narrator had been a real person; was there really a Willow? I am now inspired to find out, which may be the highest recommendation I can give (Kristen H). Be prepared to stay up all night until you have finished this novel as it will capture your attention from page one. It is not a story of history so much as a story of enduring friendship. Have tissues close at hand - this is an excellent novel that you will remember long after you have finished it (Colleen L).

Some readers enjoyed learning about Chinese culture and politics:
Anchee Min paints a vivid portrait of life in Communist China that is at times breathtaking and at other times heartbreaking. The lyrical tone of this novel opened my heart and mind and left me wanting more. A truly memorable read (Wendy F). Seeing the impact Pearl's father's mission had on the community was enlightening (Krista H). What is most gripping about the novel is that Min experienced the changes in China first-hand as it was going through the Red Revolution. An excellent read (Mary O)!

While others were taken with the humanity of Min's novel:
Although Min explains the ups and downs of China's political history very well, it is the human side of that history that outshines everything else. In her characters we see the very best of human nature: friendship, love, loyalty, and kindness, contrasted with the very worst: greed, deceit, hatred, and brutality. I found Min's descriptions of Chairman Mao and Madame Mao to be especially interesting (Loretta F). My favorite part was actually the friendship between Willow and Pearl. I think most of us would love to have a friendship that transcends decades and continents (Sarah B.)

Nevertheless, some readers thought Pearl of China fell flat:
I did enjoy the book, but wasn't blown away by it. The writing wasn't as good as I was hoping for, but I did learn things about Pearl and China that I found interesting (Krista H). The facts were all there, but laid out in outline form (Judy K). My love for the people of China, grounded in the books by Pearl S. Buck, left me disappointed by Min's characterization of the majority of them. They came across as mere caricatures (Constance S).

But overall, the majority of BookBrowse readers were delighted by Min's homage to Pearl S. Buck:
I especially liked the details about Pearl Buck's life in China, i.e. her father's obsession with Christ, her long-suffering mother, her mentally challenged daughter, her unfaithful husband, and the strength that both Willow and Pearl Buck possessed (Karen G). Pearl of China has inspired me to re-read The Good Earth as well as some of Pearl Buck's other books (Anna S). I am glad that we again can share in Buck's life and stories and perhaps introduce a new generation to this important author (Amy O).

Who should read this book?
I would heartily recommend this book for any book club, especially in combination with reading The Good Earth and Anchee Min's Red Azalea (Jo K). This is a wonderful read, and I highly recommend it to Pearl Buck fans - this book would lead to wonderful discussions (Marcia F). Excellent on all counts: characters, pacing, sense of time and place, and narrator. Pearl of China would be a good addition to an Asian history class for any age (Carol T). I recommend this book to all readers, even if you're not interested in China or Pearl S. Buck, because it's a dramatic story filled with the human emotions that are the same across all cultures (Loretta F). I recommend this book to everyone (Karen D)!

This review is from the April 20, 2011 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.

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Beyond the Book:
  Pearl S. Buck

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