Pearl S. Buck | Critical Review by Aileen Pippett

This literature criticism consists of approximately 2 pages of analysis & critique of Pearl S. Buck.
This section contains 564 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Aileen Pippett

Critical Review by Aileen Pippett

SOURCE: "New Rulers Stalk the Land, But the Good Earth Remains," in New York Times Book Review, August 8, 1969, p. 26.

In the following review, Pippett discusses the China portrayed in Buck's The Three Daughters of Madame Liang.

Pearl Buck's great novel, The Good Earth, described the life of Chinese peasants. Published in 1931, it was written out of intimate knowledge of actual conditions and mental attitudes; as an imaginative but truthful interpretation of East to West it deservedly won its author the Nobel Prize.

Now, 38 years and many books later, Mrs. Buck again interprets East to West in The Three Daughters of Madame Liang, a story of China today, a country vastly changed from the land she knew. Yet the barriers to communication between the United States and Mainland China seem to disappear as we read a novel that convinces us it is a true tale about real people.

Madame Liang's past reflects the changes in her country since her birth, in the time of the last Empress. Her progressive father objected to the cruel custom of binding girls' feet; she was educated in France, married a fellow-student at the Sorbonne and left him when he reverted to old ways and brought home a concubine. Once an ardent supporter of Sun Yat-sen, now disillusioned and regretful, she runs one of the few private enterprises remaining in the People's Republic, a luxury restaurant for foreigners in Shanghai.

She knows that the limited freedom she enjoys depends on the continuing goodwill of the powerful Minister who was once her close friend and would-be lover during their student days in Paris. And she hopes that her three daughters, who have grown up happily in America, will heed her secret warnings not to return to China. Her hopes are shattered when the eldest daughter, Grace, obeys a command from the Minister to give her country the benefit of her researches into the medicinal value of rare plants. She is allowed to spend a few days with her mother before proceeding to Peking, where she must study traditional Chinese medicine before she gets a home and laboratory of her own—and, eventually, a doctor husband. (Frankly, most American women would find Grace's young man hard to take, but it seems that love is love wherever it occurs.)

The second daughter, Mercy, does not have such good luck as adjustable Grace. A determined young woman, she smuggles herself and her husband into China on their honeymoon. He is a brilliant scientist, and far more Californian than Chinese in thinking. The efforts of the Communists to use him in nuclear weaponry result in a large-scale disaster at the site of a bomb test that failed. Later, he is exiled to a remote province for refusing to cooperate with the militarists. Even here, he keeps his faith in the Chinese people, his belief that their freedom will be achieved when current fanaticism gives way to practical techniques for better living.

A gentler alternative is offered by the experience of the youngest daughter, Joy. An artist, she loves and marries an older, wiser artist who paints abstracts yet remains distinctively Oriental. The character of this kindly visionary has all the allurement of a Chinese scroll, depicting a vast landscape with two human beings in just the right spot to fix the harmony of the whole.

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This section contains 564 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Aileen Pippett
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