Customer Reviews: A House Divided (Oriental Novels of Pearl S. Buck)
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on April 9, 2003
I would say that this book could certainly stand alone simply because there was so much happening in this turbulent setting of the revolution. In many ways "A House Divided" was my favorite of the "House of Earth" trilogy, (still, The Good Earth was beautiful!) because it was an adventure that spanned the globe. Yet there was no lack in telling how the main character evolved emotionally and intellectually from the first page to the last.
Many times throughout the book, Pearl Buck successfully showed how Yuan's world was filled with black and white; no grey. For example, a person was expected to be 100% revolutionary, or a 100% traditionalist. Or one had to be 100% Chinese, or 100% foreign. Yuan was a very conflicted man from the start and struggled with these issues pretty much until the end. To me that was the most intriguing part.
I was fascinated with Yuan's six-year stay in America. He experienced racism first-hand, the confusion of living in another country, trying to assimilate, seeing and appreciating the beauty of the country and the friendliness and openness of some of its people, the freedom to pursue one's happiness and potential, but clearly his own traditions and culture prevented him from fully accepting the foreigners into his heart.
I think the author gave some real insight into the minds of people living during the revolution. Many people, like Yuan's cousin, Meng, were fevently passionate about it. It was clear that it took a certain kind of person, with a linear, unwavering focus in order to hasten a violent change. In this case, that meant one had to be filled with anger and hatred.
Also through Yuan, we were exposed to the hypocrisy of the revolution as well. While the ideology spoke for the common people, the revolutionists were frustrated and repulsed by the common people's ways of life, such as they were for centuries. Eventually, many gave up on the older generation, and focused on the youth of the poor, because they were more easily influenced. Of course, it touched on the fact that no one was permitted to question this new state. Those who followed the cause were expected to accept it blindly.
In keeping with his torn mental state, Yuan's hesitation to decide where he stood in terms of the cause was understandable. His experience gave him first-hand knowledge of how frustrating it was to live under the old filial rules, yet he'd also witnessed the softer moments with his father, and others who represented the old world. He at least was mature enough to realize that people were deeply complicated, which made it impossible for him to truly believe that "rich people are evil, poor people are good." At the same time, as much as he loved the land, and found peace of mind working among the common people, he was at times, disgusted by their surroundings, their "odor" permeating his space no matter where he went.
Pearl Buck eloquently described the same black and white issues of the heart in Yuan. Time and time again, he wished to be emotionally open, yet didn't dare. Yuan was repulsed by the display of free behavior of the new generation of China and the young Americans. Again, his reaction to the American women who danced with his cousin Sheng was an interesting glimpse into his perception of himself. Although Yuan hated the white women who ignored or rejected Sheng because he was Chinese, he had no respect for the white women who did dance with Sheng. And he felt ashamed for Sheng for "lowering his standards" to such women.
Yes, perhaps the end was unrealistic, but as a hopeless romantic American, I can appreciate it. However, one can see the huge circle this book fills out with the trilogy. Yuan is ultimately the one who understands and respects his grandfather's efforts with the land, back in the first novel. Yuan is the one who finally repairs the ties to his father and ends the cycle of broken relationships. The trilogy ends as his father, the Tiger, spends his final days in the earthen house where he was born.
When I read certain books, I sometimes imagine what they would be like on film, and I think it would be fantastic to see it done with the entire "House of Earth" trilogy. But then again, is it even possible to make a film that would do this epic justice?
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on September 29, 2000
I would have ranked this book five-star, if the ending had not been so abrupt and unrealistic.
A House Divided is a novel with many good contrasts in its themes. Certainly, in almost all Pearl's novels, there is the contrast of the East and the West. Then there comes the comparison of the different generations. In addition, the conflict of the old and the new ideas is also successfully portrayed. People from different class have very difficult behaviours. Throughout the story, the book focuses more on "The rich have the rich's things to worry," a sentence in the first Volume of the Good Earth.
Characters are three-dimensional. Their behaviours are most of the time Chinese-like, though we have to accept the fact that Pearl has been influenced greatly by western romancism love tremendously, being an American herself. I would like to praise the part of the story in which Yuan goes to America to study. I think it is very faithfully written. Perhaps one of the reasons why I prefer this book to its first volume "The Good Earth" is because A House Divided is closer to my life ---- I am a teenager who is studying in a foreign country alone. That is what Literature is all about ---- our life. I truly have reflected upon all the difficulties Yuan has faced during his American studying, and it matches my situation well.
If you are a reader who is very interested in Chinese culture, this book is definitely a good choice for you. It has helped me to understand my home country -- China better too. I indeed am surprised by the good work of Pearl Buck. She has indeed shown the West the East well.
The story ends in the near-death time of Yuan's father, the Tiger who has treated Yuan extremely well despite his bad temper. However, Pearl ended by writing that Yuan tried to kiss Meiling, the girl who he loved. I do not think this is appropriate in a situation where a person, especialy the father is to die. What filial piety does this Chinese son have? Well, I shall the chance is so slim that it is almost zero percent.
Give it a try. I like this last volume the most among the three Good Earth Volumes.
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VINE VOICEon June 17, 2006
The final book in the House of Earth trilogy was my least favorite and most disconnected of the three. She jumps into the third generation and third book with not a whole lot of background or character development (except for Yuan), so I cared the least about the characters, their situations and trials. The story was interesting, but I found that I could not relate as well to the characters or understand their plight. But I think she did a marvelous job at showing the differences between the generations and how exposure to new ideas, cultures and technology can quickly change the traditions of a culture; sometimes the change is good and beneficial, sometimes it's detrimental. I also like how she juxtiposed Yuan, who tries to hold on to his tradition and country and resists change, to other family members who embraced the change with all their hearts. I think that The Good Earth is a brillant read, but if you missed the next two in the trilogy it wouldn't be a tragedy.
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on September 1, 2001
This third book in The Good Earth series was somewhat a slower read the the previous two. However, the story was wonderful, and despite the ending, which some might find unrealistic, I enjoyed it. I was so pleased that Yuan found happiness, acceptance and love.
I found the themes of the book relevant today in that our culture, ideas, lifestyles, and the influence and relationships with our children, effect their lives and influence future choices.
Yaun was deeply loved by the Tiger, however, was not free to grow into an individual. This somewhat stunted Yuan emotionally, and he found himself in constant conflict over the ideas of his father and the new China. His time in America began to mature Yuan. It allowed him to return home to begin his journey into manhood and make choices about his future. However, although he now had choices, he was still duty bound to his family by a debt incurred by the Tiger.
The book was wonderful and I am sorry to see the Good Earth series end.
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on October 11, 2015
I loved the flow of the writing. It gave me a feeling of being there watching the stories unfold. I read the Good Earth many many years ago, and stumbled upon the two following books when I looked to get the Good Earth. It was lovely to revisit an old story and find something new at the same time.
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A HOUSE DIVIDED is the final book of Pearl S. Buck's trilogy about the family of Wang Lung, the protagonist of THE GOOD EARTH. This book finds his grandson, Wang Yuan, son of the warlord Wang the Tiger, graduating from the war college at the beginning of the first Chinese Cultural Revolution. Yuan, a serious, thoughtful, but willful boy does not want to follow in his father's footsteps, but instead feels an affinity with the earth and growing things as his grandfather Wang Lung did.

Yuan defies his father and runs away to live in his grandfather's old mud farmhouse. This begins a chain of events which take Yuan across the world. He ends up in the coastal city where his half-sister and her mother live, as well as his uncle, Wang the Landlord, along with his spoiled family. Yuan gets exposed to, but never really embraces, the westernized party lifestyle of his half-sister and the revolutionary activities of his cousins Sheng and Meng.

After Yuan is arrested as a revolutionary, his family ransoms him and sends him to study in America, where he spends six years attaining an advanced degree in horticulture. Being a foreigner in a strange land causes Yuan to examine all his feelings, beliefs and prejudices. He is doubly introspective when he returns to China and sees his country anew through foreign eyes. Yuan is caught in a trap by his education, neither belonging wholly to either the old China or the new, his heart as divided as his family - half live in the modern coastal city and half live back in the country.

I thought this was the best of the trilogy because Yuan's introspection makes him the most well-developed and conflicted character in this multi-generational tale. However, Buck's plodding, biblical style is not for everyone and I will admit that every page seemed like as two or three (or more!) It took me several weeks to complete this novel.
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on June 8, 2016
This is # 3 of the "Good Earth" trilogy, we are introduced to the third generation of the Wang family. In the second book we met "The Tiger" who has become a powerful War Lord in China. We are now introduced to his offspring, Yuan. Yuan has been sent away to school to be trained for the military; The Tiger is hopeful that Yuan will follow in his footsteps. However, it is not meant to be. Yuan like to read and study, and I could see traits similar to the original Wang from Book # 1, the farmer of the good earth! However, this is not meant to be either.

Yuan travels to the U.S. to avoid being arrested for his association with revolutionaries in China; he studies and learns western ideas and adopts a western lifestyle. Returning to China 6 years later he finds difficulty readapting to Chinese ways.

Pearl Buck writes with authority about life in China especially involving family ties. However, she dwells on Yuan too much and his desires for his life. When he fails to achieve he cries and moans, curled into a fetal position in his bedroom. Often! After awhile, enough is enough! "A House Divided" was my least favorite of the "Good Earth Trilogy". I did continue to learn a lot about the Chinese way of life,

When I was about to say, "Finally the ending", I was surprised with a beautiful ending; it was beautifully written and made me satisfied to have finished.

I did find the trilogy an important book to read and I am proud that it is a part of my library.
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on November 16, 1999
A follow-up to the Good Earth and Sons, this amazing novel illustrates the life of a passionate young man caught in between the old and new ways of China during the beginning of the revolution. If you want to get inside the mind of today's people of China, you have to look at yesterday's people. Pearl gives us a wonderful opportunity to do that. You will read and read until your eyes are red.
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on May 30, 2014
Maybe if you buy the Trilogy from the beginning, you won't have my experience. My book club chose Pearl Buck's "The Good Earth" to read in April. I remembered reading it many years ago, so I looked forward to re-reading it with my friends. I didn't know this was a Trilogy until I finished "The Good Earth" and found out about "Sons" and "A House Divided." I bought "Sons," and because I loved the first two books, I bought the third one. As I started reading it, I realized that I had already read some of this in "Sons." Ok, maybe that was how Ms. Buck handled the transition to the third book. However, much to my dismay, I had paid $9.99 for the Kindle version only to discover that more than half the book was duplicated from what I'd read in "Sons." I think this is probably just a problem in the Kindle version, but my recommendation is to buy the Trilogy from the beginning (much cheaper too). These books are classics and you are going to want to know the Wang family through the generations.
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on October 6, 2012
The most in-depth book of the trilogy, this book particularly deals with the struggles of the only son of "The Tiger", the son of Wang who became a soldier. His struggles take him across two continents, and I think he has more honor and class than any of the Wangs. I sense a change in the author's writing style with this book, or perhaps she was just reflecting the change of the times. I thought the third book better than the second.
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