Summary and book reviews of Pearl of China by Anchee Min

Pearl of China

A Novel

by Anchee Min

Pearl of China
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

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

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers

Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

From the bestselling author of Red Azalea and Empress Orchid comes the powerful story of the friendship of a lifetime, based on the life of Pearl S. Buck.

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 Mao’s 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 century’s greatest writers, from the perspective of the people she loved and of the land she called home.

Chapter 1

Before I was Willow, I was Weed. My grandmother, NaiNai, insisted that naming me Weed was better. She believed that the gods would have a hard time making my life go lower if I was already at the bottom. Papa disagreed. "Men want to marry flowers, not weeds." They argued and finally settled for Willow, which was considered "gentle enough to weep and tough enough to be made into farming tools." I always wondered what my mother would have thought if she had lived.

Papa lied to me about my mother's death. Both he and NaiNai told me that Mother died giving birth. But I had already learned otherwise from neighbors' gossip. Papa had "rented" his wife to the town's "Baresticks" in order to pay off his debts. One of the bachelors got Mother pregnant. I was four years old when it happened. To rid her of the "bastard seed," Papa bought magic root powder from an herbalist. Papa mixed the powder with tea and Mother drank it. Mother died along with the seed. It broke ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
About this book
Willow never dreamed that her childhood friend would become a world-renowned writer. In the impoverished Chinese village of Chin-kiang, a young pickpocket meets her match in Pearl Sydenstricker, the daughter of the village's only white man, a Christian missionary named Absalom. Willow and her Papa befriend Pearl's family to get a hot meal, but eventually Papa and Absalom become partners in recruiting the villagers to join the church. Meanwhile, Willow and Pearl strike up a friendship that will last a lifetime.

As Willow and Pearl come of age, their lives diverge: Willow is forced to become a concubine, and Pearl leaves Chin-kiang to study in Shanghai and America. When ...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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).

Full Review Members Only (724 words).

Media Reviews

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."

Bookreporter.com

"[T]old with a haunting quality only Anchee Min can deliver... this rewarding read passes far too quickly."

Kirkus Reviews

A straightforward biography would have served better than this flat, hagiographic narrative.

Publishers Weekly

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.

Booklist

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.

Reader Reviews

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.

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 out...   Read More

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

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

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

Pearl S. Buck

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".

Pearl S. Buck 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 ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked Pearl of China, try these:

  • In Manchuria jacket

    In Manchuria

    by Michael Meyer

    Published 2016

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    A combination of memoir, contemporary reporting, and historical research, presenting a unique profile of China's legendary northeast territory.

  • The Bathing Women jacket

    The Bathing Women

    by Tie Ning

    Published 2014

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    Spellbinding, unforgettable, and an important chronicle of modern China, The Bathing Women is a powerful and beautiful portrait of the strength of female friendship in the face of adversity.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member


Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Barkskins
    Barkskins
    by Annie Proulx
    Barkskins, by Annie Proulx, is not a book to read quickly. After a month of slow reading, I ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Marriage of Opposites
    by Alice Hoffman
    Alice Hoffman's latest work, The Marriage of Opposites, is a historical fiction novel focusing on ...
  • Book Jacket: Miss Jane
    Miss Jane
    by Brad Watson
    National Book Award Finalist Brad Watson returns with an intimate novel about one woman's journey to...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Since She Went Away
    by David Bell

    A chilling novel of guilt, regret, and a past which refuses to die...

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    All Is Not Forgotten
    by Wendy Walker

    This is fast-paced psychological suspense/thriller at it's very best.

    Read Member Reviews

Members review books pre-publication. Read their opinions in First Impressions

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
Girl Waits with Gun
by Amy Stewart

An enthralling novel based on the forgotten true adventures of one of the nation's first female deputy sheriffs.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Summer Stunner
Summer Giveaway

Win 5 books, each week in July!

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

W M T N, W C F All

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
X

BookBrowse Summer Giveaway

We're giving away
5 books every
week in July!