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Pearl of China: A Novel Hardcover – March 30, 2010


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Pearl of China: A Novel + Red Azalea + The Cooked Seed: A Memoir
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1 edition (March 30, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596916974
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596916975
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (168 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #654,183 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

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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Customer Reviews

Very good with many historical facts woven into the story.
Jane I. Ames
Anchee Min has woven the stories of Willow and Pearl S. Buck into a beautiful tapestry of life in China at a time of unrest and changing politics.
R.J. Leflar
I highly recommend this book to all who enjoyed reading Pearl Buck's books and to anyone interested in Chinese life and culture.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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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59 of 61 people found the following review helpful By liat2768 TOP 500 REVIEWER on 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 By Diana F. Von Behren TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 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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