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Peony: A Novel of China Kindle Edition
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|Length: 352 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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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.
About the Author
- File size : 19026 KB
- Publication date : August 21, 2012
- Print length : 352 pages
- Publisher : Open Road Media; First edition (August 21, 2012)
- ASIN : B008F4NTHO
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Language: : English
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Lending : Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #141,864 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Ezra ben Israel’s Jewish ancestors arrived in Kaifeng four generations prior to the start of the novel. His family has managed to maintain their Jewish identity despite the progressively shrinking membership of their synagogue. Ezra, a successful merchant, is the son of a Jewish father and Chinese mother and displays a healthy respect for Chinese customs. His wife, however, is more of a hardliner in her devotion to the Jewish faith and believes in preserving the racial purity of her community. She envisions her son David as the future rabbi of the Kaifeng synagogue and wants to marry him to Leah, the daughter of the current rabbi. Peony, a young Chinese woman, is a bondmaid in the family household and has been raised almost as a daughter to Ezra and a sister to David. She is secretly in love with David, but realizes that as a bondmaid (a nicer word for slave) she has no chance of being his wife. Instead, hoping to please him, she schemes to encourage his marriage to a wealthy Chinese girl to whom she learns he is attracted.
Because the Jews were welcomed by the Chinese and allowed to live according to their Jewish faith and customs, this is not a tale of religious persecution. The primary threats facing the Jews of Kaifeng are assimilation and attrition. The Chinese were so welcoming that cross-cultural exchange and interracial marriage became common, resulting in cultural dilution. David is faced with the dilemma of to what degree he owes allegiance to his ancestral culture (and his mother) and how free he is to follow his heart and live his own life as he sees fit. As is often the case with Buck’s books, the story sometimes ventures into soap-opera melodrama, but she is such a good transcriber of human emotion, and the characters feel so genuine, that the reader usually doesn’t care. Even when the plot of Peony becomes romantically overwrought, it is anything but formulaic. The narrative takes unexpected turns and neither succumbs to mawkishness nor settles for an easy ending.
For much of the book, the time period of the story is indeterminate. Buck goes out of her way to make the story timeless by eliminating historical detail. For example, neither horses nor automobiles are mentioned as a means of transportation, and the Jewish family acts as if they could be straight out of Ben-Hur. Towards the end of the book, however, the Empress Dowager Cixi makes an appearance, which places the story roughly in the 1890s. The ebook edition from Open Road Media includes a substantial afterword, written sometime after 1990, by Wendy R. Abraham, an expert on the Jewish diaspora in China. She gives a detailed historical overview on the subject, from the arrival of the first Jews in China as early as the 8th century to a summary of the research on the Kaifeng Jews up through the late 20th century. The nonfiction account of this surprising episode in world history is truly fascinating, and the fictional narrative that Buck crafts from it is moving and thought-provoking. Though not as outstanding as The Good Earth trilogy, Peony is one of Buck’s better books.
There are a lot of things to admire about the book. Some of the characters are fascinating, especially David’s mother and the old servant woman. I didn’t like the two other main characters, Peony and David. Peony is manipulative and David is a very underdeveloped character. He’s also dumb. The main storyline regards the women in David’s life and which one he will choose to marry. His mother and father each have different ideas. Peony loves him, but she’s a lowly “bondswoman” (essentially a slave). David decides he will only marry a Chinese girl that he caught a glimpse of once at a distance. He doesn’t know anything about her, other than she is beautiful. Once he meets her and finds out she is a simple-minded, temperamental idiot, he doesn’t care because she is still beautiful, and, hey, what else matters in a woman other than her looks?
The other interesting aspect of the book is the story of a group of Jews living in China. I was totally unaware of any such group, but Buck based it on fact and apparently did quite a bit of research. However, I was a bit uncomfortable with some of her portrayals and opinions expressed. Her idea, at least as expressed by the characters, is that the Jews should stop viewing themselves as God's chosen and separate and should become more like other people, in this case, their Chinese neighbors. I am not Jewish and have no opinions, but I am not sure how a Jewish person would react to this novel. I was also surprised at how Buck portrays the Chinese as so superior to others, simply as perfect people. I’ve been to China a few times, several years ago, and I was surprised at how nice and friendly the Chinese were, but I think history tells us they can also be not so nice, just like everyone else.
Top reviews from other countries
That there had been a Jewish community in mainland China should not surprise, but it did! Here Miss Buck made a wonderfully imagined picture of its last days and complete assimilation.
As an older reader, China was a closed community in my youth - we were advised for Geography A level when we had a choice of countries to study in 1961 not to select either China or Russia as too little information could be found reliably from available contemporary sources on which to base our studies. Needless to say I would have picked China as I knew nothing much about her and learned little more through the years of revolution. Subsequent opening up of the country, travelogues, teaching some female Chinese students and seeing their difficulties in familial situations and their unstinting thirst for knowedge makes Pearl Buck's books particularly attractive. I have had difficulty in finding many of them previously so welcome the source from Amazon. I am saving several more for a timewhenI can sit back , read and digest them properly.