Pearl of China by Anchee Min

I’m not sure how I chose to buy this book except for the fact that there was a kindle sale on Amazon and I purchased this along with the Julie Andrews biography, Home, and a post apocalyptic fiction piece.

My love for stories of China extend past The Joy Luck Club (though great) as I grew up with tales of my grandmother’s childhood and youth. I also grew to love China Men in grad school but this aspect of the novel did not stand out to me until later. Maybe it was why I chose it to begin with, who knows!

My first reaction was to the fact that this is a story about a woman whose father was a Presbyterian missionary in China who converted many. It almost seemed coincidental that this is part of Pearl Buck’s story. I didn’t even know who Pearl Buck was until mention of her Pulitzer partway through the novel spurred me to read about her on Wikipedia. What an amazing, fateful find.

The second aspect of the novel that really resonated with me is the fact that the characters lived through the communist regime. This political change in China’s history personally affected my grandparents on both sides. In fact, my paternal grandfather served in Chiang Kai sheks army and fought the Japanese. All four grandparents fled to Taiwan and years later my parents somehow met in the land of opportunities — America.

The turmoil of the Chinese people during the Chinese civil war seemed to be presented so differently in this book. It was harsh to read that the Nationalists were responsible for much Chinese brutality against their own people as well as foreigners. I suppose Min helps illustrate how and why Mao Tze Teng was so widely received by the “proletarians” until he could no longer hide his hunger for power.

In a way, she sought to share the same perspective Pearl S Buck did in her books. Politics aside, the Chinese people suffered under both parties quest for power and control.

It was interesting to read her version of what happened at Tiananmen Square. It was also very sad to hear about the torturous conditions and the stripping of dignity that prison camps had to offer. Not many novels can go into such true detail. It is something we must not avoid or run away from if we are to understand and learn.

Though historical fiction, Anchee Min does a great job of telling the story through Chinese eyes as she seeks out to do per her author’s note. I am thankful to have come across this book so fatefully and cannot wait to read Pearl S. Buck’s “The Good Earth.”

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