Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Portrait of a Marriage Hardcover – January 1, 1996
|New from||Used from|
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
About the Author
Pearl S. Buck (1892 1973) was a bestselling and Nobel Prize winning author. Her classic novel "The Good Earth" (1931) was awarded a Pulitzer Prize and William Dean Howells Medal. Born in Hillsboro, West Virginia, Buck was the daughter of missionaries and spent much of the first half of her life in China, where many of her books are set. In 1934, civil unrest in China forced Buck back to the United States. Throughout her life she worked in support of civil and women s rights, and established Welcome House, the first international, interracial adoption agency. In addition to her highly acclaimed novels, Buck wrote two memoirs and biographies of both of her parents. For her body of work, Buck received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938, the first American woman to have done so. She died in Vermont.
Top customer reviews
What put me off, however, was how flawed, and, in my opinion, how narcissistic William and Ruth were. They were incredibly cruel to their children. In William’s case, his parents were totally unfeeling people, incapable of showing love, which was probably the cause of his icy, uncaring relationship with his own children. Ruth, while from a simple farm family was a completely self-centered, ignorant provincial. I found her totally narrow-minded, cruel, although she loved her children, in her fashion, but eventually, cold heartedly, resenting the two who went off on their own, rejecting their farming roots. Her whole world and decisions centered on her narcissism. She rejected anything that she did not understand, which was a lot, and was affected by how anyone could not think and behave according to her world view, a world consisting of only her farm. Are there people like that? Of course, but more on that at the end of my review.
William was another curiosity. He was passive in many ways. His love for Ruth was strong, yet I wonder at his totally rejecting his former life as a very privileged man to bury himself, almost slavishly, to Ruth’s world. Was it sexual? Mrs. Buck certainly hints at this in their relationship. But I felt she was a device for William’s search for simplicity and an honest way of life, so different from his parents’ world of wealth and status. I found him completely shallow, empty headed. He did show some admirable acts concerning his daughter and son, countering Ruth’s pettiness and spite at what she perceived as a betrayals, simply because they wanted to find a different life. But there was an aridness about him, to quote Gertrude Stein, “There was no there, there.” He seemed to revel in mediocrity, never really reaching his potential as an artist, or a person.
There are epiphanies they each had very late in life – they were married for fifty years – yet I could not believe their emotional, inner life. Perhaps it’s me, but I’m curious that not one reviewer mentioned the cruelty their children suffered (and their offsprings), those who did not follow Ruth’s philosophy, no, her narrow, self-centered world view, and Williams passivity. As parents, they were very flawed – whose parents aren’t? – but in an almost pathological way. They both had something missing internally, their only connection was their obsessive devotion to each other. They were incapable of really engaging with the world. In Ruth’s case, I felt she was almost a symbol, a device, attracting William to the simple life he craved.
This book, for me was, a puzzle. Mrs. Buck’s mastery of character was there, but there was a strange reality in the world she depicted, a world of two characters, so passive to become ultimately insignificant. Her usual universal vision was lacking, or miscalculated, albeit a certain reality depicting William and Ruth. They were not individuals who helped me connect every human being as related on some cosmic level. That is Mrs. Buck’s unique talent, although for me, missing with William and Ruth in “Portrait of a Marriage.”
Am I missing something?
I can't --nor do I want!-- stop reading her!!
Now, divorced, I read the book and thought about the work that goes in to making a marriage work long after the "tension" is gone and realized this marriage works because one person was the gardner to the other one's flower.
The book is dated -illustrations and references- but has the additional attribute of looking back on marriage in a different time and place and defines the spiritual, emotional, physical, religious and legal contract that marriage often is; in a way few would embrace or understand today.
Is this Pearl Buck's best book? Not for me. I found her other books a better reflection of her talents Perhaps this is because often the resolution between characters in her other work, is additionally complicated with real and inculcated differences and not just tension which between people can be transient, fade, or beome work.
Most recent customer reviews
I forward to reading more of her books.