This is my first Pearl Buck novel, but certainly won’t be my last. She is one of the Nobel laureates in literature and this title was irresistible. I had originally planned to read The Good Earth because it would also fit into this year’s Read Harder challenge since it was a part Oprah’s Book Club but, again, this title was irresistible. Fortunately,
When I started the book, I didn’t know what to expect. I was definitely not prepared for Madame Wu and her birthday and the decision she made to leave her husband’s bed or her reasons. The book is an interesting look at both Chinese society of it’s time and at the way what is proper can change in a generation. I’ve known several families where just the time between siblings can mark the changes of social order.
Madame Wu was an interesting character. I loved the way her initial perfection put her in the place where her story begins, particularly with her desire to simply have a room of her own. Okay, that may be putting it too simply, but she definitely strove for a release from her duties once she was at a certain age. I don’t think it’s too big a thing to ask, especially in a time when she couldn’t have chosen her husband. The way the different women of the story came to her and their different needs gave each depth. I had wondered a while where things were going, given Madame Wu’s staunch beliefs and her apparent perfection from the start. But she does grow.
I loved all the women of Madame’s Wu’s life. As mentioned before, they had a good amount of depth, though slowly discovered. The story is told from the deep third person perspective of Madame Wu most of the time and only occasionally veered into the thoughts of secondary characters. I especially liked the use of the word “discovered” for how she got to know them and the details of their lives that she ylearned when she finally listened. The men of her life were also given depth, but much slower. Her ideas about men and marriage were funny. I’ve heard similar stereotypes from some of the women in my life too.
Once the end got moving I could see where it was going but that took a while and there were still a few surprises left. It was interesting to see Madame Wu take her new approach to these challenge and wade through more of her heart than she had dared previously.
As usual, I borrowed Pavilion of Women from my local library, but it’s also available for purchase from several outlets. Click on the cover to be redirected to Booklikes for options or add to Goodreads for later.