I am a long-time fan of Pearl Buck. I read "The Good Earth" and the next two books in the series, in high school. I loved these so much that I read anything I could find by Buck--almost every book she wrote--and her output was prodigious. Some of her books were better than others, of course, but all were enjoyable. I read "The Eternal Wonder" on my Kindle, after being excited to learn that an incomplete manuscript had been discovered. I understood that it was an early draft and that I should not expect it to be as polished as other works by Pearl Buck. Understood--but I still quickly purchased it and began reading this "lost" Buck manuscript with anticipation.
So I am sad to have to be so negative about anything with her name on it.
I made myself finish the book. I kept wondering, "Did Pearl Buck really write this?" I recognized bits of her gentle style, always one which allows the reader to discover and never telling us what to think. But this book took this too far. It was ponderous, pointless and seemed without a plot. Yes, its long, wordy, repetitive passages needed editing, but there is more wrong than a lack of editing.
I wanted to care about the brilliant and remarkable Rann, but I never did. There were moments when I thought perhaps I would, but my faint interest soon faded. The descriptions of Lady Mary and her seduction of the brilliant but too-young Rann were disturbing and confusing. The instant fame he finds in the last half of the book is completely unbelievable, and he becomes even more flat. His "romance" with Stephanie is so platonic as to be completely bizarre, especially after the excesses of his "body's incessant demands" with Lady Mary. I felt no flicker of emotion at Stephanie's tragic end.
This sad book is a complete waste of time. I can't believe this had Pearl S. Buck on the cover, and I can't believe the glowing reviews by some readers. I'm wondering why I forced myself to read this. Actually I know why. I have loved everything by Pearl Buck. I thought that surely it would get better. It did not.