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Pavilion of Women: A Novel of Life in the Women's Quarters Kindle Edition
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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.
From the Publisher
From the Illustrated Biography
Portrait of Pearl S. Buck
Johann Waldemar de Rehling Quistgaard painted Buck in 1933, when the writer was forty-one years old-a year after she won the Pulitzer Prize for The Good Earth. The portrait currently hangs at Green Hills Farm in Pennsylvania, where Buck lived from 1934 and which is today the headquarters for Pearl S. Buck International. (Image courtesy of Pearl S. Buck International.)
Buck Addresses Poverty in Asia
Buck addresses an audience in Korea in 1964, discussing the issues of poverty and discrimination faced by children in Asia. She established the Orphanage and Opportunity Center in Buchon City, Korea, in 1965.
Buck and Family
Buck with her husband, Richard J. Walsh, and their daughter, Elizabeth.
“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
About the Author
- ASIN : B008F4NRT4
- Publisher : Open Road Media (August 21, 2012)
- Publication date : August 21, 2012
- Language : English
- File size : 16510 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Sticky notes : On Kindle Scribe
- Print length : 233 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: #101,135 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from the United States
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"I will spend the rest of my life assembling my own mind and my own soul. I will take care of my body carefully, not that it may any more please a man, but because it houses me and therefore I am dependent upon it."
Her husband, her sons, her close friend, and even her servants do not understand Madame Wu’s decision, however, and much of the novel relates how she acts to carry out her plan – selecting a young woman to be her husband’s concubine; selecting a tutor for her third son, so that he can attract a wife who has been educated in Shanghai; sending her youngest son to live in the countryside with rural cousins; and, then, trying to solve the problems that arise. Madame Wu is steadfast in her decision to live in her late father-in-law’s quarters in the household and living her own life.
"In this city the Wu family was only one house. It was pleasant to think that there were all these others where men and women lived together and brought forth their children and children’s children. And in this nation there were many more such cities, and around the world many other nations where in different ways men and women lived the same life. She liked to dwell upon such thoughts. Her own life took its proportion. What was one grief among so many like it, or what was one joy in a world of such joys?"
The chance hiring of the tutor, a foreign priest from Venice, for her son’s education, changes the placid life that Madame Wu imagined for herself. Brother Andre, as he calls himself, is a very tall, very large man with very unusual ideas that attract both her son’s desire for personal freedom and her own. Both her son and Madame Wu come to love this man, his high degree of learning, his lack of fear, and his venturing mind. No romantic attachment colors Madame Wu’s attraction to Brother Andre but, before he dies, he becomes the only man she has ever fully loved. It is the flowering of the relationship and the effect it has on Madame Wu’s actions that makes Pavilion of Women and engaging and powerful book – as powerful as the author’s best known work The Good Earth.
A few quotes may illustrate the effect of Brother Andre upon Madame Wu:
Brother Andre’s advice about her third son, “You can be as free within these walls as you could be in the whole world. And how could you be free if, however far you wander, you still carry inside yourself the constant thought of him? See where you belong in the stream of life. Let it flow through you, cool and strong. Do not dam it with your two hands, lest he break the dam and so escape you. Let him go free, and you will be free.”
Madame’s view of her readiness for Brother Andre’s words, “It was so pellucid a soul, so wise and yet so young. She had lived in this house and had learned so much through her own living that she was ripe with understanding. Her mind was a crystal cup, the workmanship complete, the cup only waiting to be filled.”
Madame’s thoughts about Brother Andre at the time of his death, “He was neither foreign nor a priest to her now. He was the only being she had ever met whom she worshiped. Old Gentleman had taught her much. But Old Gentleman had feared many things. Brother André feared no one. He feared neither life nor death. She had never thought of him as a man when he was alive, but now that he was dead she saw him as a man lying dead … She was skeptic to the soul. Not in years had she entered a temple or burned incense before a god. Her father had cleansed her of the superstition common to women, and Old Gentleman had finished the work. She did not now believe in an unseen God, but she knew certainly that this man continued.”
Brother Andre’s influence on her son, “Madame Wu now saw. Indeed, she perceived what she had never seen before, that Fengmo was not at all like his father, but he was very like his grandfather. The same sternness sat on his features, the same gravity shone in his eyes. He was handsome, but grave … When she had asked André to be his teacher she had asked blindly, seeing only a shallow step ahead. She had touched a lock, half turned the key, but a wide gate had opened under her hand, and her son had gone through to that new world.”
Madame’s faith in her own immortality, “Yes, she now believed that when her body died, her soul would go on. Gods she did not worship, and faith she had none, but love she had and forever. Love alone had awakened her sleeping soul and had made it deathless. She knew she was immortal.”
As the novel progresses, the reader discovers that in order to allow her husband to flourish, Madame Wu, a wiser and more intelligent person than her husband, has given up pursuit of her own pleasures in order to build up the esteem of her husband and create a thriving home for the entire family. After all, as Old Gentleman, M. Wu's father-in-law, once said, "Intelligence, more than poverty and riches, divides human beings and makes them friends or enemies." M. Wu's intelligence in a threat to her husband, and so she must abandon it. In choosing a concubine for her husband, thus horrifying both her friends and family, M. Wu's trapped spirit sees only freedom within its grasp.
However, once the concubine, dubbed "Ch'iuming" by M. Wu, enters their life, things get complicated. Even Mr. Wu cannot understand why his wife, formally so loving, has now become so "monstrous cold." From unrequited loves, to forbidden loves, to unequal marriages--Pavilion of Women is not quite a love story, and more of a literary exposition on the pursuit of perfection and the costs of selfish-love over unselfish-love.
In an effort to marry off one of her sons, M. Wu asks a foreign tutor, named Brother Andre, to tutor her son in English and make him more "eligible" for the woman she has chosen for him. M. Wu is manipulative in nearly all that she does, flattering to obtain her own means, but there is instilled in the reader a sense of sympathy for the woman who had no choice in her marriage, and is making the most out of the duties handed to her. With Bother Andre, however, M. Wu finds a kindred spirit that she never expected to find in the priest-without-a-church. Brother Andre, a man who refuses to acknowledge one true religion, and believes that all gods are "God," is still a man of great worth. He believes that "religion is better without money" and refuses M. Wu's payment for tutoring her son. Brother Andre traverses the city and takes in abandoned girls, teaching them with his vast wisdom in languages, astronomy, etc., and, at the age of 16, finds them husbands.
When M. Wu's son leaves the house, his marriage to the woman of M. Wu's choice all but crumbling, M. Wu soon enlists Brother Andre to tutor her son's wife, in hopes that it will improve their relationship. But the son's wife is no scholar. Soon, M. Wu becomes Brother Andre's best student, and from that point in the novel, M. Wu becomes a much more sympathetic character, changing so that even her servants do not recognize her.
Pavilion of Women was a book that I fully intended to dislike, having read The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck prior to this, and not having liked it. However, by a third of the way through, I had to know how M. Wu's story would end. It is not action packed, but slow moving and thought provoking, so if you're looking for a quick read or an action-packed thriller, look elsewhere. If you want to meditate on some interesting thoughts and characters, pick up Pavilion of Women and enjoy a luxurious read through Chinese culture and history, where the characters are richly described and become well known to you.
Top reviews from other countries
This is a slow paced book, covering several years of life in a chinese household in the 1930s, in a remote small town, just before the second sino-japanese war, Pearl Buck had a deep understanding of chine and the chinese way oof life, a great autor, look her up on Wikipedia
A true gem, Hopefully more of her books will become available on Kindle