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Pearl of China: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Anchee Min
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (182 customer reviews)

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Book Description

It is the end of the nineteenth century and China is riding on the crest of great change, but for nine-year-old Willow, the only child of a destitute family in the small southern town of Chin-kiang, nothing ever seems to change. Until the day she meets Pearl, the eldest daughter of a zealous American missionary.

Pearl is head-strong, independent and fiercely intelligent, and will grow up to be Pearl S Buck, the Pulitzer- and Nobel Prize-winning writer and humanitarian activist, but for now all Willow knows is that she has never met anyone like her in all her life. From the start the two are thick as thieves, but when the Boxer Rebellion rocks the nation, Pearl's family is forced to leave China to flee religious persecution. As the twentieth century unfolds in all its turmoil, through right-wing military coups and Mao's Red Revolution, through bad marriages and broken dreams, the two girls cling to their lifelong friendship across the sea.

In this ambitious and moving new novel, Anchee Min, acclaimed author of Empress Orchid and Red Azalea, brings to life a courageous and passionate woman who loved the country of her childhood and who has been hailed in China as a modern heroine.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As a girl in Maoist China, Min (Red Azalea) was ordered to denounce Pearl S. Buck; now she offers a thin sketch of the Nobel laureate's life from the point of view of fictional Willow Yee, a fiercely loyal friend. A lifelong friendship begins in Chin-kiang when Willow meets Pearl, whose missionary father converts Willow's educated but impoverished father. Under threat from hostilities toward foreigners, Pearl departs for the safety of Shanghai, and, later, to America for college, but she returns for her wedding to find that Willow is the satisfied founder of a newspaper and a very unhappy wife. While a changing China swirls around them, their friendship is tested as they both fall in love with the same poet. As the 1949 revolution looms, Pearl flees China, and Willow's husband becomes Mao's right-hand man, leading to a fateful showdown with Madam Mao when Willow refuses to denounce her lifelong friend. Though the setting and revolutionary backdrop are inherently dramatic, Min's account of an epic friendship is curiously low-key, with some sections reading more like a treatment than a narrative. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Pearl S. Buck, who grew up in China and became the first American woman writer to win the Nobel Prize, wrote that Chinese women “are the strongest women in the world.” Min, a prime example of an indomitable Chinese woman, has made it her mission to reveal the truth about the lives of women in China, including Madame Mao, Empress Tzu Hsi, and now Buck. Pearl first appears as a bright, inquisitive girl who conceals her blond, curly hair beneath a black knit cap to be less conspicuous in the Chinese town of Chin-kiang, where she lives with her courageous American missionary parents. We get to know Pearl through her best friend, Willow—impoverished, smart, plucky, and Chinese—as they share mischievous and harrowing adventures, a disastrous mutual love for the famous poet Hsu Chih-mo, and a string of tragedies yoked to the paradoxes and horrors of the Boxer Rebellion, China’s civil war, and Mao’s catastrophic rule. Exiled and heartbroken, Pearl achieves world renown by writing about China, while journalist Willow is brutally punished for remaining loyal to her “imperialist” friend. Ardently detailed, dramatic, and encompassing, Min’s fresh and penetrating interpretation of Pearl S. Buck’s extraordinary life delivers profound psychological, spiritual, and historical insights within an unforgettable cross-cultural story of a quest for veracity, compassion, and justice. --Donna Seaman

Product Details

  • File Size: 416 KB
  • Print Length: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1 edition (April 9, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003HD2L0E
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #96,935 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
228 of 243 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
NO SPOILERS! NO SPOILERS! I HATE SPOILERS AND HAVE PURPOSELY WRITTEN THIS IN A WAY THAT WON'T RUIN IT FOR YOU. NO SPOILERS! NO SPOILERS!

I'm stuck up when it comes to books. I only buy sure fire classics--after all there are so many of them which never disappoint--and other books that I am confident will be a great read. But once in a while I try and buy a book by an author I've never heard of if the reading of a random page or two in the bookstore grabs me. The latter was the case with Anchee Min's first book, Red Azalea with the added draw that it had a gold sticker on it saying it had won some notable prize and been signed by the author. I am the least likely to discover the next great author of timeless classics, but this time I may have gotten lucky.

How good is Red Azalea that it prompted me to read this, her third book about fifteen years later? After enjoying Red Azalea I lent it (which I rarely do) to a friend of mine who was studying at Boston University. The next day, when I visited her, as soon as I opened the door she threw it at me.

"Damn you!" She yelled. "I was up all night reading that book! I couldn't put it down until I was finished despite all the work I had to do! Get it out of here!"

Red Azalea being her first book, having learned English only six years earlier, and a memoir, I thought maybe it was just that her personal story was so rivetting and that maybe she had a lot of help in writing it, but Pearl of China proves that Anchee Min is a great storyteller, period.
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61 of 63 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly cursory treatment of an excellent subject February 17, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Anchee Min begins her story well and with a solid punch in introducing the desperate life of Willow and her family. Living a life of extreme poverty in China, Willow and her father follow the missionary, Absalom, and his church because they need the food they can get from him. This hypocritical patronage turns into a fierce loyalty and conversion for Willow's father and also for many of the people from their village. Willow meets, and is befriended by Pearl, Absalom's daughter and the two friends are cynical viewers of Absalom's fanatical mission to 'save souls' and Willow's father's scheming and unethical ways to obtain converts. The logic of how Willow's father goes about convincing people to convert is hilarious and these first few chapters are my favorite in the book.

However, when Anchee Min really gets into the historical aspect of the time - the rise of communism and the ejection of missionaries in China - this book is oddly subdued. The turmoil and violence of the time are barely communicated. It seems that as the girls age the pace of the novel becomes more and more hurried and Min squeezes events of huge magnitude into a few cursory pages. Willow's first marriage, abuse, escape and kidnapping is dealt with in almost a shadowy form where we don't really see her misery or feel for her pain. What could, and probably should, have taken a few chapters is quickly wrapped up and disposed of. The narration seems automatic and unemotional. I had a really had time finishing the rest of the novel simply because I kept thinking of how much better it could have been.

In sum, I think this story had the potential to be absolutely marvellous, but it falls quite a bit short.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Translucent Pearl March 21, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
In the novel "Pearl of China," Anchee Min, born in China in 1957 and now a resident of the United States, does her best to pay tribute to the life and influence of Pearl S. Buck as someone who successfully depicted the Chinese peasant with affection and veracity. Her main character Willow, a fictitious blending of many of Buck's childhood acquaintances from the village of Chin-kiang, represents the many faces of China during the turmoil of Willow's lifespan encompassing the late 19th and 20th centuries beginning with the Boxer Revolution and ending with the denouncement of Madame Mao and her regime of terrorism and murder. Min's tale speaks with authenticity in a simple yet strong voice that reveals the pragmatic survivor that will do anything to ensure her own continuance without knuckling under to the brutality, humiliation and stripping away of personal dignity in a dangerously paranoid and anti-capitalistic China.

As a daughter of the communist way of life and having no experience or knowledge of the existence of anything else, author Min was chosen by Madame Mao as the ideal proletariat to star in a propaganda film that was never finished. When Madame Mao's regime collapsed with the death of Mao, Min was found guilty by association. Disgraced as a collaborator she was punished with chores of menial labor designed to humiliate her. She knew she faced death and with the help of actress Joan Chen decided that her only option besides suicide was to escape to America. In 1984, she arrived in Chicago, speaking no English, only Chinese. Overwhelmed by the difference in lifestyle and the sting of having been lied to by the communist regime regarding the quality of life in America, she concentrated her efforts, dreaming only of assimilation through the power of language.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
just started reading
Published 6 hours ago by Rose Olivas
5.0 out of 5 stars Will Read Again Some Day
I so enjoyed this book. I could not wait to get back to reading at the end of my day. I have read The Good Earth twice and it was nice to read a story about Pearl S Buck and China... Read more
Published 22 hours ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Story
So very interesting to read about the life of Pearl Buck. I have read other books by this author and really like her style of writing.
Published 22 days ago by Danielle
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed the background info
Interesting. Enjoyed the background info.
Published 23 days ago by A. Cabeje
3.0 out of 5 stars faint praise
The book was fine. A bit clunky. It was pleasant enough. I sometimes felt like I was reading an outline that someone forgot to finish. Read more
Published 2 months ago by C. Stevenson
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written
This book is so beautifully written. It's well researched and you fall in love with the characters almost immediately. Read more
Published 3 months ago by RantingDev
5.0 out of 5 stars Pearl of China
I loved this book. Didn't want to put it down. I enjoy Anchee Lin's writing. Can't wait to start something new.
Published 3 months ago by Kathy
5.0 out of 5 stars I really enjoyed this book- it was a beautifully crafted historical...
I really enjoyed this book- it was a beautifully crafted historical fiction- lovely way that the author tied the story together- marrying the fact with the fiction to create a... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Elizabeth
5.0 out of 5 stars I really liked the approach and Willow is very real to me
This is a fictionalized presentation of Pearl Buck's live along with the happenings in China during her life. The narrator, Willow, is a childhood friend. Read more
Published 3 months ago by B. PARMENTER
5.0 out of 5 stars fablous story! Thoroughly enjoyable reading.
Read Pearl Bucks Good Earth years ago & this novel shared insights of her Life & love of China. Super reading
Published 3 months ago by Haunani Ching
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More About the Author

Anchee Min was born in Shanghai in 1957. At seventeen she was sent to a labor collective, where a talent scout for Madame Mao's Shanghai Film Studio recruited her to work as a movie actress. She came to the United States in 1984 with the help of actress Joan Chen. Her memoir, Red Azalea, was named one of the New York Times Notable Books of 1994 and was an international bestseller, with rights sold in twenty countries. Her novels Becoming Madame Mao and Empress Orchid were published to critical acclaim and were national bestsellers. Her two other novels, Katherine and Wild Ginger, were published to wonderful reviews and impressive foreign sales.

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