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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 (457 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: 13644 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: #24,501 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
132 of 133 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 A rare insight into layers and sub layers of human ...
A rare insight into layers and sub layers of human mind .. I have read this book many times in various stages my life . I have understood it differently each time ..
Published 1 hour ago by Sucheta iyer
5.0 out of 5 stars I enjoyed reading
Very interesting and well written! I enjoyed reading it
Published 2 hours ago by Silviya Stoyanova
5.0 out of 5 stars Love learning about other cultures
When fiction is well-written and hopefully well-researched, it's a great way to understand the world in a bigger context. Read more
Published 2 days ago by Cooking Wizard
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and informative
This is a book by Ms. Buck which was new to me. The life and times of Mme. Wu were interesting. I would love to know how this story reflected the author's experiences in two... Read more
Published 5 days ago by Marie
5.0 out of 5 stars I absolutely love Pearl S Buck books
I absolutely love Pearl S Buck books.I have read 4 so far and looking forward to reading all of them.I have been to China and fell in love with the country and people. Read more
Published 7 days ago by Danuta W.
4.0 out of 5 stars My book group all enjoyed it, and it inspired a lively far-ranging...
Fascinating book of an old but changing China and a mature woman 's spiritual journey. My book group all enjoyed it, and it inspired a lively far-ranging discussion at our... Read more
Published 8 days ago by Margaret Thompson
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding
One of my favourite books. Uplifting and enriching.
A joy to read and add to my library. I love the Pearl S. Buck books.
Published 10 days ago by Darice Roha
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read.
The language seemed dated however the story was engaging.
Published 17 days ago by Philip Mygatt
2.0 out of 5 stars The book arrived in good condition, but was of a completely different...
The book arrived in good condition, but was of a completely different printing with a different cover and lower-quality production than the one in the picture.
Published 21 days ago by Rebecca FitzGerald
5.0 out of 5 stars Pearl Buck wrote wonderful novels of life in China during her tim...
Pearl Buck wrote wonderful novels of life in China during her time there before the Communist revolution. Read more
Published 22 days ago by phh
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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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