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Living Reed: A Novel of Korea
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Living Reed: A Novel of Korea

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  993 Ratings  ·  105 Reviews
The Living Reed follows four generations of one family, the Kims, beginning with Il-han and his father, both advisors to the royal family in Korea. When Japan invades and the queen is killed, Il-han takes his family into hiding. In the ensuing years, he and his family take part in the secret war against the Japanese occupation. Pearl S. Buck's epic tells the history of Kor ...more
Paperback, 480 pages
Published January 1st 2004 by Moyer Bell (first published 1963)
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Joel Judge
Jan 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Wow, yet another fantastic read. Pearl S. Buck is rapidly becoming one of my favourite authors. The Living Reed is a multi-generational saga centred upon the Kim family who struggle to maintain their proud Korean heritage and culture through the dark and harrowing days of Japanese occupation. The story tells of Korea's historically unfortunate geographic location, a small nation which from the late 1800's to after the Korean War was destined to be a pawn of more powerful nations including China, ...more
Heather
Sep 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Stunning book. This book had AMAZING characters and I found myself falling in love with Korea and the Korean people. Pearl Buck is an amazing author and has a way of bringing people's struggles, desires, fears, loves and hopes to life in a way that no other author does. Before I read this book I could have cared less about Korea and her history. But this book brought that country alive and gave me an appreciation for what has happened to that nation over the last hundred years and how the US has ...more
david
May 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Last week I went for my annual physical.

“david, you are putting on some weight,” claimed the doctor I have known for a decade.

“Why? How much do I now weigh?” an innocent member of the GR community asks the internist.

“One hundred and sixty-two pounds with your clothes on,” was the reply.

“I confess, Doctor. I have been doing a lot of reading and writing. How much should I weigh?” the obeisant knight errant, challenged.

“Let’s see,” as he plays with the touchpad of his laptop. “A 5’4” male should we
...more
Kressel Housman
Pearl S. Buck is most famous for her books on China, but when I learned that she wrote one about Korea, I just had to get hold of it. North Korea is regarded as one of the world’s biggest threats to stability, safety, and peace, so it seemed imperative to learn more Korean history. Almost everything I knew until now came from watching reruns of M*A*S*H.

As it turns out, Korea has a history that a Jew can appreciate. It’s an ancient culture with its own language and customs, but rarely has it had
...more
Bob Newman
Feb 25, 2018 rated it did not like it
....when she really started churning'em out

I'm no expert on Korea or Korean history, though I did live there for six months some years ago. At that time, I learned enough about the country to realize that THE LIVING REED is a joke. If you like soap opera, uplifting prose about valiant people striving to overcome whatever, then this book could be for you. But, if you like reasonably authentic background and depiction of central characters who are not cardboard figures, then think twice before dev
...more
Hadrian
Apr 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Mrs. Buck, who is most famous for writing richly detailed historical fiction about China, turns her efforts towards Korea, from the 19th century to 1945. A novel as good as any of hers - a good story, and a good insight into the lives of a people, as well.
Carolyn Vandine west
Jun 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library-book
Took me awhile to get through this one, I was savoring the time and vibrant history in this book. As an adult I miss the history classes I never took, but this is a pleasant way to catch up. I know I read the good earth many years ago and plan to revisit it again. Don't miss this author I was quite intrigued by the story behind Korea although I still have not researched why and when the country divided into the north and south. That is for another book I guess
Ajla
It started very good but I completely lost interest in the second half.
Sara
Jul 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
This was a really wonderful and detailed look at life in Korea during before and during the Japanese occupation. So detailed in fact, that if you weren't sure how babies nurse, there's a whole page explaining it.

The boob page aside - the characters were absolutely amazing and you'll find yourself falling in love with all of them, even though they aren't perfect. I kept trying to figure out just how historically accurate everything is, I mean, it's fiction, but we all know how well researched Bu
...more
Mariana Tomé
Oct 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: romances
Como todas as outras obras que já li da autora, "A Serpente Vermelha" é mais uma extraordinária história que não só nos faz embrenhar totalmente no enredo da mesma como nos dá a conhecer o Oriente de uma forma que não seria possível de outra maneira. Com a acção principal a decorrer na Coreia, a autora relata-nos como é do seu costume e estilo característico, as particularidades da cultura, povo, tradição e história coreana, numa narrativa que se desenrola até pouco depois da II Guerra Mundial.
T
...more
Rrlgrrl
Feb 20, 2012 rated it liked it
I started this book last year and finally finished it sometime in January. I love Pearl S. Buck as a writer, but this novel was very hard to read for me. The villains in it were the Japanese soldiers, and there were many terrible things they did to the Koreans. It's a fascinating book about a slice of Korean history, between the late 1800s and through the beginning of World War II. The original reason I started to read this book was to learn about unique cultures that are not well know in the We ...more
Rachel
Jun 11, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: meh, korea
2.5 stars, because I liked the idea of it, and the first half, despite HUGE historical inaccuracies. I am by no means a scholar of Korean history, but the little I do know makes me certain that Pearl Buck did very little research for this book, which makes the characters come off more like caricatures of Korean people. I did find the family life of the lead characters, and the queen's flight from the palace, very interesting, but then the story began to drag. The characters were not well-fleshed ...more
Eileen
Nov 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-books
If you have always believed there should be one Korea, and that the North/South division is a modern imposition, reading this book, which is both historical, yet gently lyrical, at times, will go a long way towards realizing why one Korea would likely never work. Very different peoples, different belief systems, and the tragedy is that the "line" separated some families, and to the "wrong side" of their actual ethnic divide. Pearl S. Buck is at her best, in this book.
Lauri Saplad
I finally finished this book! It's not that it wasn't interesting, it's just that it contained so much Korean and world history, as well as philosophy, religious belief, political ideology... It's really a lot to take in and absorb all at once. At its heart, it's the story of one man's family and how they come to terms with the changing world around them.
Ângela
Jul 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
One of my favourite books, simply briliant...
Kimberly
Mar 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
Pearl S. Buck is one of my favorite authors, but this book was probably my least favorite of what I've read from her. It still has all the hallmarks of what Buck does so well -- rich, moving characters who seem real and human, full of depth and complicated motivations. But her devotion to tracking the complicated political tensions of 20th century Korea ultimately bogs her story down, and the narrative gets lost several times, in my opinion. I think she also romanticized America's involvement, d ...more
Teri Heyer
Jan 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Pearl S. Buck's "The Living Reed" is a beautiful and haunting read. Anyone with an interest in historical literary fiction and/or the history of Korea should read this book.
Jean
Jul 03, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Long and pretty slow-going, but ultimately interesting look at Korean life and history from the viewpoint of one family.
Yma
Jan 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Understanding Korea

The more I read, the more I wanted to read! A great work of historical fiction that gives insight into Korean history and understanding of the human spirit.
TienvoorNegen
Sep 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Hurrah! Historical fiction by the hands of one of my most beloved writers. Diving into this book, the craftsmanship of Pearl S. Buck always feels like getting into a warm bath.
Debi Medina-hitch
Apr 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Loved!
Shelly
May 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Korean history told through the voice of one family. With all the currents world events, I found this very interesting and a really good story.
Nancy
Jun 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Having lived in Asia many years I love Pearl S Bucks writings. An excellent writer!
Ivan Benedict
May 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I finished 6th grade in a one-room country school. When I went to school in town for 7th grade, I discovered the town library. When I got my library card, I searched for my first book to borrow. I have no idea why - maybe it was the cover? - I checked out "The Good Earth" by Pearl Buck. It changed my life. I discovered a whole world I never knew. Up to then, I had just hoped someday to visit Chicago.
The book picture isn't accurate; that is probably the Portugese translation. The English original
...more
HoopoeGirl
Aug 02, 2016 rated it it was ok
I remember reading The Good Earth in school, and how Buck's portrayal of Chinese village life left an impact on my younger self. Thus I was looking forward to the same experience for the Korean setting in Living Reed. Sadly, either time has skewed my memory of that first read, or age has increased by expectations beyond what the author once was able to achieve for me. While some of the descriptions are florid and memorable, for the most part, I felt like Buck provided a very narrow lens into the ...more
Celeste Spangler
This was a book that lived on my parents' book shelves for I don't know how long. I don't even know if either of my parents ever read it. But it was an older addition of a book, and by an author that I was passably familiar with (both from having to read "The Good Earth" in school, and having grown up on her children's book "The Chinese Children Next Door", which I didn't even know was hers until I had to track it down as an adult), so it came to live with me. I finally got around to reading it. ...more
Aida
Mar 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
First there was one, then none, and at last two…
One Korea, The Occupied Korea, The Divided Korea (North vs. South)
This is the story of Korea, the irony was that I picked the strangest time to read this book, almost a week or two after I started “The living reed”, North Korea declared that it was preparing for a war…
The peculiar history of a country which fought for its independence and yet was deceived in every step… Now that I know, I’m even empathetic with people in N. Korea, for those who s
...more
Kayla
Nov 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
This was an impulse buy while wasting a few hours at a bus terminal. I'm glad for it! After I started reading, I realized there was so much about Korean history I didn't know, despite enjoying learning about it, and having lived here for three years.
To have characters to identify with and cheer for while looking back on Korea's recent history made it more real. It was similar to the feeling I developed after watching the movie, Brotherhood of War. It was a feeling of sympathy and pride for the e
...more
Sarah
Nov 26, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who likes Pearl Buck and Korean history
Shelves: novels
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, though from what I understand it's not 100% historically accurate (despite the author's claim that it is). I think having 2 adopted Korean kids would make me biased (in a good way) towards any novel about Korea, but I truly like the way Pearl Buck portrays her characters. Flawed, but so lovable. I learned a fair amount of Korean history, and was especially impressed by the near-idol-worship of Woodrow Wilson by some Koreans. I especially enjoyed the Koreans' reac ...more
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Pearl Sydenstricker Buck 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 St ...more
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“In silence they lay close, without passion, but closer than passion could bring them they lay close.” 4 likes
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