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.
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.
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.
Are my clues getting too simple or am I in the company of the best read people? Shiva, Suzy, Sreeja... 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.
This post is part of the April A to Z Challenge, 2014 for the theme AMAZING AUTHORS.