Myles's Reviews > Pavilion of Women

Pavilion of Women by Pearl S. Buck
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Jul 27, 11

bookshelves: literary
Read from July 17 to 18, 2011

Among my library's odd collection consisting of varied donations and years of accepting all tired, huddled masses of books is an assortment of beautiful editions of Pearl S. Buck's works, many of them retaining their dust-jackets. I'm not sure what drew me towards this particular book as opposed to, say, The Good Earth or The Living Reed, but the premise is compelling.

Madame Wu after 32 years of marriage and 25 years as the head of a large, venerable and prosperous household, decides to retire from her wifely duties on her 40th birthday. She will choose a concubine for her husband and perhaps take time for herself. Out of the confusion that this raises in the Wu compound, a microcosm of China itself, comes a subtle illustration of China in the years between the Revolution and the great changes that transformed the country, for better or for worse, after World War II.

I say subtle, but don't be misled, there is some definite preaching on the part of the author but it doesn't interfere with the enjoyment of the story, even if the pace slows somewhat near the end after Madame Wu's 'enlightenment'. Madame Wu's character doesn't change, but her thoughts do. Perhaps Buck was trying to show how China would/could retain it's character despite its changes.

Pearl S. Buck will be an author I'll return to, even from this book with its minor flaws: the preaching, the deliberate backwardsness of some of the characters, I can tell that she deserved the Nobel Prize if only for her gifts as a storyteller.
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07/17/2011 page 52
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