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Pavilion of Women: A Novel of Life in the Women's Quarters [Kindle Edition]

Pearl S. Buck
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (468 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The exhilarating novel of an elegant woman’s subversive new chapter in life

At forty, Madame Wu is beautiful and much respected as the wife of one of China’s oldest upper-class houses. Her birthday wish is to find a young concubine for her husband and to move to separate quarters, starting a new chapter of her life. When her wish is granted, she finds herself at leisure, no longer consumed by running a sixty-person household. Now she’s free to read books previously forbidden her, to learn English, and to discover her own mind. The family in the compound are shocked at the results, especially when she begins learning from a progressive, excommunicated Catholic priest.
In its depiction of life in the compound, Pavilion of Women includes some of Buck’s most enchanting writing about the seasons, daily rhythms, and customs of women in China. It is a delightful parable about the sexes, and of the profound and transformative effects of free thought.
This ebook features an illustrated biography of Pearl S. Buck including rare images from the author’s estate.

Editorial Reviews


“Beautifully written . . . a fine, full flavorsome novel.” —Newsweek

“Vivid and extremely interesting.” —The New Yorker

Pavilion of Women is Miss Buck at her best, the dedicated storyteller. Beneath the deceptive simplicity of the narrative flows the clear, swift tide of human life—the small commonplaces of daily living, the clashes of personality, the episodes mean and magnificent.” —The Saturday Review of Literature

From the Publisher

Madame Wu was to retire from married life and had planned to select a concubine for her husband. When the revered House of Wu is upturned by her decision, Madame Wu elegantly manages the situation and is granted private time she never had before. Yet, with all this new freedom, and the arrival of her son's English teacher, how will Madame Wu change?

"Pavilion of Women is Miss Buck at her best, the dedicated storyteller. Beneath the deceptive simplicity of the narrative flows the clear, swift tide of human life--the small commonplaces of daily living, the clashes of personality, the episodes mean and magnificent."

--Saturday Review of Literature

Product Details

  • File Size: 13397 KB
  • Print Length: 316 pages
  • Publisher: Open Road Media (August 21, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008F4NRT4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #27,152 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
133 of 134 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A story about family, duty, and personal growth June 11, 2004
Pearl S. Buck's novel tells the story of the Wu family in pre-communist China. Nobel and respected, they have lived for generations in the same tradition. Madame Wu is the mistress of this household, her whole life spent fulfilling the duties of her sex - ministering to her husband, bearing sons, dealing with servants, maintaining a smooth order in the house. But she is intelligent and deeply emotional, and has felt caged by an existence where everyone else come first.
So on her fortieth birthday, Madame Wu decides to "retire" from her duties, to find time for herself. She arranges matters in the house like pieces on a chess board - procuring a concubine for her husband, and marrying off her children, hoping they will no longer demand her attention. But her retreat brings only emptiness, until a foreign priest enters the house to tutor her son.
What follows is not a typical "forbidden love" story. Instead, "Pavillion of Women" uses the plot to explore themes of identity, self-love and what our connections with other people really mean. Madame Wu finds that freedom doesn't mean running away from duty. It involves learning to love herself first, setting her spirit free. It is then that she is able to return to her duties with a new sense of content.
The conflict between responsibility to the group and personal freedom is played out in the family, as a microcosm of China as a whole at the time. But the issues here transcend time and culture - most of us will be able to relate to them. The book is beautifully written, and I recommend it if you want a story that makes you think.
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81 of 85 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sensational! June 24, 2003
I love and treasure this book immeasurably. Every time I find a copy at a used book sale, I buy it and send it to my one of my women friends. Women everywhere should read this spectacular, beautifully written story of the independent, sassy Madame Wu. I thought Ms. Buck could never top "The Good Earth" but this one did it for me. I won't give a book report, just my humble opinion that this book should be on the reading list of every woman on earth....even my 20-something daughters loved the story.
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43 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Duty Changed Through Love to Joy March 21, 2006
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
After reading and thoroughly enjoying her novel, "Pavilion of Women" (written in 1948), it was not difficult for me to understand why Pearl S. Buck earned the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature in 1938. As a natural storyteller, Buck allows one to enter the heart and mind of her main character, the beautiful and accomplished Madame Wu, so fully and painlessly by using simple explanations that seem so effortlessly illumined that they transcend the cultural differences of a mid 20th century China and allow this magnificent multi-dimensional creation to speak as a fully flesh and blood universal woman.

As the title suggests, the plot revolves around the day to day happenstances of the oppressed `pavilion of women' that provides a wealthy Chinese gentleman's `happiness' in the form of siring future generations and keeping him pleasured as befits his rank as lord and master. Madame Wu, the one and only wife, on the day of her fortieth birthday decides quite calculatingly to acquire a concubine for this husband whom she has never loved, allowing her to rid herself within the complicated etiquette of the Chinese upper class of the burden of servicing her husband conjugally. As the mother of four sons, in her eyes and in the eyes of society, she fulfilled her duty as a wife. Fully knowing that she will continue to oversee the management of all who live under her domain, she nevertheless anticipates her retirement with relish, planning to read and self-educate herself within the confines of her father-in-law's well-stocked library.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very good novel of pre-revolutionary China March 14, 2004
"Pavilion of Women" was Pearl S. Buck's first novel about an upper-class Chinese family. It's the story of Madame Wu, beautiful and intelligent, who decides on her 40th birthday that her physical duty to her husband is over and, against his will, finds him a concubine. She is as deep as he is shallow, a good wife and mother, who prides herself on having raised four sons and married off the three oldest, but she doesn't realize she has never loved her husband, until she meets her real soulmate in the person of Brother Andre, a renegade Catholic priest whom she engages to teach her son foreign languages. Madame Wu also becomes Brother Andre's pupil and learns more from him than he ever set out to teach; what Brother Andre gives Madame Wu is the priceless gift of self-knowledge. Madame Wu has been the heart and soul of her large household, totally in control in her quiet way, but she realizes that running her large household is one thing; running her family's lives is something else again, and the best thing she can do for them is help them be who they were meant to be. In Madame Wu, Pearl Buck created a remarkable character who after 40 years finally learns what it is to love.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thought-provoking gem of literature July 12, 2004
A Kid's Review
The Pavilion of Women by Pearl S. Buck is a true gem of literature. It follows the story of Madame Wu, a respectable and beautiful Chinese noble, who, on her fortieth birthday, decides that she has fufilled her physical needs to her husband. Her decision causes an uproar in the household, making everyone, including herself, restless. When she hires a foreign priest, Brother Andre, to come teach her son, he introduces a new world to her through his thought-provoking preaching and words of wisdom. Through him, Madame Wu learns to make peace with herself by helping others. This book really made me think about my morals and outlook on life. That is very rare in a book. It is simply wonderful.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars China's pass culture.
Wonderful story about a past culture and traditions.
Published 9 days ago by Sueanndurney
5.0 out of 5 stars It's always good to go back to another writing era and just ...
It's always good to go back to another writing era and just soak it up.....the vocabulary and grammar, the absence of graphic violence and tawdry sex scenes, just plain old great... Read more
Published 10 days ago by nana07
5.0 out of 5 stars I looked forward to my reading time.
This story had a suprisingly spiritual and life purpose with morality message. I love a look into Chinese culture.
Published 13 days ago by Debbie K. Molnar
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Pearl S. Buck is a legend unto herself.
Published 16 days ago by Joan Kovach, Nurse
5.0 out of 5 stars Pearl Buck's Introduction to the Life of Sun Yat-Sen
I chose this book because a friend told me that what she read concerning Sun Yat-Sen left her feeling sorry for China. Read more
Published 23 days ago by luxdei
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Good read, but does get a bit "preach-y" at times. Definitely worthwhile.
Published 1 month ago by Meg
5.0 out of 5 stars and this book did not disappoint. We read it aloud
I adore Pearl S. Buck's writing, and this book did not disappoint. We read it aloud, and never came away without something thought provoking to engage our minds and emotions. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Bethany Travis
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it
Beautifully written, I Just Loved it. I bought it for the reviews and Wasn't dissapointed at all. I Never read anything from this autor before but I will definitelly search for... Read more
Published 1 month ago by T. P. Arredondo
5.0 out of 5 stars great classic
I thought I had read all of her books. But this one I had missed. It was very good. It amazes me that a book written so long ago can still be so current with today. Read more
Published 1 month ago by rose
3.0 out of 5 stars I always enjoy reading about early Chinese customs written by Pearl...
I always enjoy reading about early Chinese customs written by Pearl Buck. This book was no exception.
Published 1 month ago by Beverly Marcum
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More About the Author

Pearl Comfort Sydenstricker was born on June 26, 1892, in Hillsboro, West Virginia. Her parents were Southern Presbyterian missionaries, most often stationed in China, and from childhood, Pearl spoke both English and Chinese. She returned to China shortly after graduation from Randolph-Macon Woman's College in Lynchburg, Virginia, in 1914, and the following year, she met a young agricultural economist named John Lossing Buck. They married in 1917, and immediately moved to Nanhsuchou in rural Anhwei province. In this impoverished community, Pearl Buck gathered the material that she would later use in The Good Earth and other stories of China.
Pearl began to publish stories and essays in the 1920s, in magazines such as The Nation, The Chinese Recorder, Asia, and The Atlantic Monthly. Her first novel, East Wind, West Wind, was published by the John Day Company in 1930. John Day's publisher, Richard Walsh, would eventually become Pearl's second husband, in 1935, after both received divorces.

In 1931, John Day published Pearl's second novel, The Good Earth. This became the bestselling book of both 1931 and 1932, won the Pulitzer Prize and the Howells Medal in 1935, and would be adapted as a major MGM film in 1937. Other novels and books of nonfiction quickly followed. In 1938, less than a decade after her first book had appeared, Pearl won the Nobel Prize in literature, the first American woman to do so. By the time of her death in 1973, Pearl had published more than seventy books: novels, collections of stories, biography and autobiography, poetry, drama, children's literature, and translations from the Chinese. She is buried at Green Hills Farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

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