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Pearl of China : a novel
Anchee Min
Adult Fiction MIN

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From Publishers' Weekly:

As a girl in Maoist China, Min (Red Azalea) was ordered to denounce Pearl S. Buck; now she offers a thin sketch of the Nobel laureate's life from the point of view of fictional Willow Yee, a fiercely loyal friend. A lifelong friendship begins in Chin-kiang when Willow meets Pearl, whose missionary father converts Willow's educated but impoverished father. Under threat from hostilities toward foreigners, Pearl departs for the safety of Shanghai, and, later, to America for college, but she returns for her wedding to find that Willow is the satisfied founder of a newspaper and a very unhappy wife. While a changing China swirls around them, their friendship is tested as they both fall in love with the same poet. As the 1949 revolution looms, Pearl flees China, and Willow's husband becomes Mao's right-hand man, leading to a fateful showdown with Madam Mao when Willow refuses to denounce her lifelong friend. Though the setting and revolutionary backdrop are inherently dramatic, Min's account of an epic friendship is curiously low-key, with some sections reading more like a treatment than a narrative. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Min opens her latest with guilty sobs recalling her "brainwashed" teenaged self in 1970s China, when she was forced to denounce Pulitzer and Nobel prize-winning writer Pearl S. Buck to Madame Mao. That guilt clearly drove Min (Red Azalea) to write this "based on the life of Pearl S. Buck" novel about a fictional friendship between Buck and her Chinese best friend, Willow. Unfortunately, by book's end readers are left with little more than caricatures of a Chinese Saint Pearl and her long-suffering sidekick, both ultimately victims of the easily vilified Madame Mao. Buck and Willow bond as turn-of-the-century girls, and Min uses their lifelong relationship to chart China's tumultuous history. VERDICT A novel about Buck could have been interesting, but this one is marred by insipid dialog (Buck's husband should be more understanding because of his Cornell degree, her would-be lover wants to know if she "love[s] like a Chinese woman"), jolting gaps (Buck's adopted daughter, Janice, disappears after one mention), and apocryphal pronouncements (Buck apologizes via Voice of America for casting Western actors in Hollywood's whitewashed version of The Good Earth). Buck's story deserves better. With two autobiographies and 80-plus titles to choose from, readers can easily access Buck directly. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 12/09.]-Terry Hong, Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program, Washington, DC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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