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Pearl Buck grew up in China a child of Presbyterian missionaries with a Chinese nanny, Chinese playmates, and a scholarly Chinese tutor. She was a clever studious child, steeped in the Bible, and to her father’s dismay the complete works of Dickens, as well as the folklore and classical stories of her Chinese friends, and she readily admits that her first appreciation of story came from the Chinese.
The Good Earth was a revelation to the West when it was published in 1931, especially because of Buck’s innate understanding of the people her novel describe. A wave of critical acclaim and popularity gained her the Pulitzer Prize and greatly contributed to her Nobel Prize for Literature, which highlighted “a human sympathy passing over widely separated racial boundaries”.
Our book circle discovered that The Good Earth still has the power to transport us into the lives of O-lan, a homely servant girl, and Wang Lung, the peasant farmer who marries her. Their marriage is not easy, and when famine strikes they must leave the land or starve, but O-lan’s determination brings them back and allows them to raise their family and build a life together.
With one exception, The Good Earth was universally liked by our group for the beauty of its writing, for its wonderful though flawed characters, and for the sympathy with which Buck shows us a culture quite alien to our own.
We meet again on Thursday 17 July at 7.30 pm to discuss The Road Home by Rose Tremain.
Withiel Book Circle – reading list
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