Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Pearl of China by Anchee Min
Anchee Min invented a Chinese lifelong friend for Pearl: Willow Yee. Willow describes living through chaotic changes in China, from the overthrow of the last Emperor, through the brutal Cultural Revolution (a time when it was dangerous to be a friend of "American cultural imperialist" Pearl Buck) and eventually the improvements that followed the arrest of Madame Mao. Pearl escaped being murdered during the violence in Nanking in 1927. She left China permanently in 1934, but she and her family are apparently still remembered fondly in China.
Chinese authors of Pearl Buck's time considered peasants unworthy subjects and so Pearl's novels were unusual not only in that Chinese peasants are the central characters, but also that she portrays them with humanity and compassion. Buck's The Good Earth has been on my to-read list for years and now one of my book discussion groups will be discussing it in July. Pearl of China has made me even more keen to read it.