Friday, April 18, 2014

P is for Pearl S Buck

1892-1973
I discovered Pearl S Buck quite by chance in a bunch of long forgotten books left behind by my aunt. I read The Good Earth and Letter to Peking. That was my first introduction to China, a country that intrigued me no end. I then thought they were written by a Chinese author, so authentic were they in their portrayal. I wasn't too far from the truth. Buck spent much of her life in China. 
I loved her simple story telling style. Much later I found that she was the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Her life

Pearl S Buck was the daughter of American missionaries who lived in China. They came to the US for her birth and then moved back when she was merely three months old. That remained her home for almost 40 years. Till she was almost 15 she had a Chinese tutor who taught her not just the language but also about great Chinese thinkers like Confucius. Chinese was her first language. She was also a huge fan of Charles Dickens and reread him almost every year.
After she married John Lossing Buck she moved to a small village in China. There they lived among the poorest of people and it was these people who figured in The Good Earth. The couple had a daughter Carol who was diagnosed with an illness PKU. Buck was immensely saddened by that and by the fact that she couldn't have any more children. She left Carol in America where she could be well looked after and returned to China. It was to enable Carol's care that Pearl started writing. 
She adopted 7 children and remained a champion for adoption of Asian kids all her life.

Her subjects

Since she knew China best she decided to make that her subject. And so East Wind West Wind about a Chinese girl who learns about the Western world was written. The Good Earth was her second book. Said she, “I used to say to these young people, “Why don’t you write about your peasants? They are wonderful people”. And they would say, ‘Oh nobody would be interested.’ And so I said well I’m gonna write that book then. If none of you will do it, I will write it. So I wrote ‘The Good Earth'.

The Good Earth


Pearl S Buck won the Pulitzer Prize for this book. It tells the story of a Chinese man Wang Lung and his wife O Lan. It is the story of the rise and fall of his fortunes - his struggles with famine, his abject poverty that forces him to beg and steal and finally his rise again.
A big reason for the book's amazing success was its timing. It was published during the time of the Great Depression and to people in America it was offered some consolation that there were people worse off than them. 
Of course there were critics. They maintained Buck painted too simplistic a picture of the country, that the book was no authority on China and the Chinese way of life. They said it was just about one kind of China at one period in time. That was of course true. However in the absence of much popular literature on China during that time, her books did remain an authority on the country. 
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Are my clues getting too simple or am I in the company of the best read people? ShivaSuzySreeja... good going. And I thought Pearl Buck wasn't a popular choice.  

As for tomorrow's clue do not wrack your brains friends. It's a surprise, a surprise you'll like, I hope. So take a break from the guessing and drop back in tomorrow for some fun.
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This post is part of the April A to Z Challenge, 2014 for the theme AMAZING AUTHORS.


Also linking to the Ultimate Blog Challenge.



 

19 comments:

  1. Hm - didnt read any of her work, but seems interesting. Meeting between cultures are always fascinating to read I think.-) Thanks for sharing:-)

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    1. You at welcome Eli. Glad to see you here.

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  3. I have never read her...wow you have introduced me to quite a few whom I have never read...

    P for Petrified-Random Thoughts Naba

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  4. The name sounds familiar and not again....will try getting her book and read it..thanks for introducing..I should check your other authors as well :)

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    1. Do tell me about it when you read her.

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  5. It's been a good day for me, reading wonderful posts like yours. I've never read this author's books, (can't recall) but now look forward to doing so. It is obvious from this post that you think highly of Pearl S. Buck's writing and that peaked my interest too. AtoZer http://writer-way.blogspot.com

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  6. This is a new one Tulika...not heard, not read! The Good Earth seems like a complete family drama with morals...I think I'll like it!

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    1. Do try it. It has an old world feel to it.

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  7. I've read her Good Earth a long time ago. It is one of my mother's favourite books. Good choice for P.

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  8. I have never read any of her books but found your article interesting, informative, and entertaining. ♥

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  9. I remember hearing the name Pearl S Buck but I racked my brains over it but I'm not sure which book I have read of hers :(

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  10. I remember reading her in school but don't remember which one. Good post

    Carol @ Battered Hope

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  11. She seems like a wonderful person, adopting so many children and being a champion for adoption of Asian kids. Haven't read her :( will do.

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  12. I haven't read her books yet, but heard about Good Earth. Added to my list :)

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  13. My Mom had one of her books. I vaguely remember trying to read it when I was very young...I think I'll read it now.

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  14. My dad had Good Earth and raved on and on about it so much that it put me off. But I think I'll give it another go thanks to you. :)

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