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Pearl of China by Anchee Min
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Pearl of China (edition 2011)

by Anchee Min

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5048720,201 (3.67)64
Member:mrssweetiebear
Title:Pearl of China
Authors:Anchee Min
Info:Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (2011), Edition: Export & UK open market ed, Paperback
Collections:Your library
Rating:**1/2
Tags:read 2013

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Pearl of China by Anchee Min

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Review for the unabridged audiobook.

I listened to the Audible version of this book and therefore did not have a cover to inform me that this was a biographical novel. It was not until I was about a third of the way through that the penny dropped and it gradually dawned on me that I was reading the life story of Pearl S.Buck.

Sadly, I have never read any of Ms Bucks writng, though there are three of her books lurking in my shelves. However, I had obiviously heard of her, and once I realised the significance of the characters, this novel took on a whole new meaning.

In an interview by KPBS, Anchee Min relates how she came to write this book about a character who had been considered persona non-grata by the Chinese authorities during her teens (1971). Ms Min was amazed to discover that Pearl Buck actually loved Chinese peasants and didn't hate the Chinese at all. Thus Anchee Min's appetitie was whetted and Pearl of China is the result.

It did, however, seem to be more about Pearl's (fictional?) friend, Willow, than about Pearl herself. Willow is from a poor family and is used in the novel to illustrate the lives of this strata of the population during the revolution that resulted in Mao's rise to power.

Pearl Buck was from a missionary family and the book covers the fall of the Christian Church under the leadership of overseas missionaries. Interestingly, this is correlated in the book I am currently reading, The Woman Who Lost China by Rhiannon Jenkins Tsang.
After Pearl left China in 1934 she was never again allowed to return, which distressed her greatly. America was an alien place to her, and she considered China to be her home.

My one complaint about the book was the emphasis on Pearl's friend Willow, otherwise an interesting listen.

Also read:
Empress Orchid by Anchee Min (4 stars) ( )
  DubaiReader | Jul 23, 2013 |
I really liked it until about half way - then I really didnt mind if I just stopped reading it. So I gave 4 stars for the first half because it was a nice read - but not enough to sustain a whole book. Maybe Ill revisit it some other time.....
SO I had a moment and revisited this book...it was slow in the middle really....but things picked up at the 70% mark and I found myself getting emotional at the end. I still keep it at 4. A nice read if you have the time, but not one to go hunt for unless youre into Pearl S Buck. Nice Historical Fiction. ( )
  susan.jeffery | Jul 10, 2013 |
In 1971, as a middle schooler in Shanghai, Anchee Min was ordered denounce American author Pearl S. Buck as an enemy of China. It wasn't until 1996 that she finally had a chance to read The Good Earth, after it was given to her by a woman attending her book-signing, who told her "Pearl S. Buck taught me to love China." Min read the book in one sitting, tears streaming down her face. 'Pearl of China' is Min's love letter to Pearl S. Buck, her way to honor the woman who loved China more than anything in the world.

That's not the plot of the book, that is how it came to be written. In 'Pearl of China', Anchee Min tells the story of the life of Pearl S. Buck and the rise and fall of the Cultural Revolution through the eyes of Pearl's childhood friend Willow.

This was a beautiful, and above all, moving book.


( )
  shojo_a | Apr 4, 2013 |
In 1971, as a middle schooler in Shanghai, Anchee Min was ordered denounce American author Pearl S. Buck as an enemy of China. It wasn't until 1996 that she finally had a chance to read The Good Earth, after it was given to her by a woman attending her book-signing, who told her "Pearl S. Buck taught me to love China." Min read the book in one sitting, tears streaming down her face. 'Pearl of China' is Min's love letter to Pearl S. Buck, her way to honor the woman who loved China more than anything in the world.

That's not the plot of the book, that is how it came to be written. In 'Pearl of China', Anchee Min tells the story of the life of Pearl S. Buck and the rise and fall of the Cultural Revolution through the eyes of Pearl's childhood friend Willow.

This was a beautiful, and above all, moving book.


( )
  shojo_a | Apr 4, 2013 |
I've never read anything by Anchee Min, or Pearl Buck but this book made me crave more. Min's writing had me actually seeing the things she described in China, smelling the jasmine and the cooking, and wanting to know everything.

The two main characters Willow and Pearl are lifelong best friends, and the characters were very strongly developed. They were in my head even when I wasn't reading. This story engulfed me. All I wanted to do the last few days was be in the book.

I love Min's writing style, the people - all of them, that were so real and came to life on the pages, and all the political events that happened during the span of Willow's life. I felt like a part of the family.

This book is magical. ( )
  E.J | Apr 3, 2013 |
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Epigraph
I belong to China for I have lived there from childhood to adulthood … Happy for me that, for instead of the narrow and conventional life of the white man in Asia, I lived with the Chinese people and spoke their tongue before I spoke my own, and their children were my first friends. –Pearl S. Buck (My Several Worlds)
Behind the calm steadfast eyes of a Chinese woman, I feel a powerful warmth. We might have been friends, she and I, unless she had decided first that I was her enemy. She would have decided, not I. I was never deceived by Chinese woman, not even by the flower-like lovely girls. They are the strongest women in the world. Seeming always to yield, they never yield. Their men are weak beside them. Whence comes this female strength? It is the strength that centuries have given them, the strength of the unwanted. –Pearl S. Buck (Letter from Peking)
Dedication
For Pearl S. Buck
First words
Before I was Willow, I was Weed.
Quotations
Beneath her skin, she was Chinese.
They spoke as if I were not in the room, as if I didn’t exist. I could feel the force pulling them closer. It was strong. They were my real-life Romeo and Juliet, the Butterfly Lovers. I sat behind Hsu Chih-mo in the corner of the room by the shadow near the curtains. I held my breath and dared not stir. Moment by moment I saw love take root in their hearts. They blossomed like flowers. It was fate. I was amazed to be both witness to and victim of a great love. I was touched by their birth of feeling but sad beyond description because my heart withered.
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Book description
{Dustcover flap} In the small southern China town of Chin-kiang, in the last days of the nineteenth century, two youn girls bump heads and become thick as thieves. Willow is the only child of a destitute family. Pearl is the headstrong daughter of zealous Christian missionaries. She will grow up to become Pearl S. Buck, the Nobel Prize-winning writer and activist, but for now she is just a girl emabarrassed by her blonde hair and enchanged by her new Chinese friend.

Moving out into the world together, the two enter the intellectual fray, confide their beliefs and dreams, and experience love and motherhood. But these are times of great tulmult. When a bloody civil war erupts, Pearl is forced to flee the country ahead of angry mobs. Willow remains loyal to her exiled friend, but under Mao's repressive new regime, her "imperialist" ties jeopardizes both her husband's career and her own safety. Worlds apart, the women's lives remain entwined.

Ambitious and deeply moving, Anchee Min's stunning novel Pearl of China celebrates an incredible friendship and brings new color to the life of Pearl S. Buck, a woman whose unwavering love for the country of her youth eventually led her to be hailed as a national heroine in China.
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In the small southern town of Chin-kiang, in the last days of the nineteenth century, young Willow and young Pearl S. Buck, the headstrong daughter of zealous Christian missionaries, bump heads and embark on a friendship that will sustain both of them through one of the most tumultuous periods in Chinese history.… (more)

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