Friday, April 23, 2010

#BookReview: Pearl of China - Anchee Min

A fictional account of acclaimed author Pearl S. Buck's life is the basis of Anchee Min's latest, Pearl of China.  As a fan of both Anchee Min and Pearl Buck, I was eager to read this and was not disappointed.  I've loved Pearl Buck since I picked up The Good Earth years ago, but I didn't know much about her.  Yes, I could have Googled or Wikipedia'd her, but I didn't.  I waited for someone to release a book about her and I'm glad I did.

To introduce us to Pearl, the author creates the fictional character Willow.  The only child of a poor family in Chin-kiang, Willow initially sees Pearl and her family of missionaries as easy prey for food and money.  Eventually the girls become best friends and so starts a friendship that lasts over sixty years.

Though this is a fictional account of the life of Pearl Buck, the history of China upon which it is set are not.  The civil war between the Nationalists and Communists, as well as the rise of Emperor Mao were very real events that Pearl Buck lived through.

What did you like about this book?
I learned so much about Pearl Buck that I didn't know.  Presented the way Anchee Min does makes it a much more enjoyable read than perhaps a regular memoir would have.

What didn't you like about this book?
There was a lot of Chinese poetry mixed in.  While I would have welcomed some, it became a bit too much, especially as Buck's university days were explored.

What could the author do to improve this book?
Once Buck departed China the bulk of the story became that of Willow.  I would have liked to have learned more about Buck's years in America after living in China for more than half her life.

Published March 2010

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