The author of the much honored two-volume biography of Henri Matisse unearths the life and work of the Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize winner Pearl Buck, whose novels in the 1930's and 40's were the first written for a Western audience to describe ordinary life in the still secret China of the late 19th and early 20th century. Published in 1931, The Good Earth sold tens of millions of copies worldwide and is still in print today.
©2010 Hilary Spurling (P)2010 Oasis
A poignant analysis of one of the most important artists of the 20th century. This book not only educates the reader about Pearl Buck, her childhood and family life, it paints a detailed picture of pre-revolutionary China; chronicling the lifestyle of the missionaries who struggled to blend with and help the impoverished population there. Excellent non-fiction.
I purchased this book based on an interview I heard on NPR. It has taken me a long while to get through the audio version - I wish the NPR book reviewer had been the narrator. This narrator certainly knew her story, but perhaps too well - her bored monotone really detracted from a fascinating history; numerous pronunciation mistakes made it painfully obvious when she needed a break.
However, Ms Spurling has done exhaustive research on Pearl Buck, her family, her inner struggles and the window she opened for the west to view the badly misunderstood culture of China. The first hand accounts of the terror experienced during the Boxer rebellion and the other uprisings and incidents in the 20th century made me wonder how foreigners found the strength to remain in China. I was particularly taken with Pearl Buck's persistent calls for her readers to rethink the purpose and strategies of foreign missions, and feelings of racial and cultural superiority.
Women writers fascinate me. So do odd people, gifted people, and exotically experienced people. Of Pearl Buck I've only read The Good Earth, but now I want more. This is a terrific story, wonderfully written and told by terrific, clear narrator.
The portrayal of life in China at that time is a unique blend of personal memoir and historical journey, with perspectives on some of the often hidden aspects of living the ministry life in that part of the world - as well as here in the U.S. This book inspired me to read her complete trilogy and other writings on historical aspects of life in China, written in elegantly descriptive prose. She is a master story-teller in her later works.
Tragic inspiring mesmerizing
Pearl Buck's life in China was much more complex and interesting than I would have imagined before listening to this book. And tragic too. The biographer doesn't omit any of the gritty, grimy details of her life. And there were many! But they add substance to Buck's portrait and vividly illustrate what a remarkable woman (person) Pearl Buck was and what a remarkable life she had lived.
Pearl Buck's greatest novel was her life
I lived for two years in Nanjing and one year in Zhenjiang and I was never informed that Pearl Buck had lived in either city. Obviously the Chinese are conflicted about her. But China was an important part of her life, and for millions -- both Chinese and non-Chinese -- she offered a glimpse of a civilization that they would otherwise have never known.
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