Ally Armistead's Reviews > Pearl of China

Pearl of China by Anchee Min
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's review
Apr 26, 2010

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Absolutely stellar and fascinating research into the life of Nobel Prize-winning novelist Pearl S. Buck--my latest obsession. Anchee Min is meticulous and detailed, showing us a portrayal of the famous writer through the eyes of a fictional best frien...d Willow Yee. The story follows the entire arc of Pearl's life, from her birth in China, her childhood as a Caucasian in an Asian town, her removal at the hands of Communists, and her continued threat to Mao's regime through the power of her novels. What was most fascinating was learning about President Nixon's admiration of Pearl--making her his most-esteemed advisor on all things Chinese--and Madame Mao's subsequent denial of Pearl's visa into China. What was most helpful to me, in terms of my own novel project, were the insights into Chinese culture and life: the celebration of a "good death," the native floral and fauna species, the common cuisine, and why Pearl S. Buck was so in love and homesick to return to China, favoring its scents and flavors over those of America. The only issue I had with the story was that it struck me more as a narrated biography, using Willow Yee merely as a vehicle. As a result, the novel was detached at times and not immersive, primarily as it relied too heavily on exposition rather than scene and evocative detail to render its world more fully and satisfactorily to the reader. Still, an enjoyable read, particularly to those interested in one of our few Nobel Prize winning FEMALE authors, as well as the beauty and power of China.

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