Book Review: Pearl of China by Anchee Min

Min is an excellent writer and always chooses interesting subjects. Pearl of China is no different.

Pearl of China is a tricky novel. Min set out to tell the story of Pearl S. Buck, perhaps the most famous and influential writer on China in the 20th century. But Min wanted to tell the story from a Chinese perspective, which becomes difficult after Buck was forced to leave China in 1934. The book continues on until after Buck’s death in 1973. So a large portion of Buck’s life is left out and the book instead follows the life of the narrator, the fictional Willow.

Even without Buck’s presence, the book is an enjoyable read. Anyone interested in the lives of Chinese people (both friends and enemies of Chairman and Madame Mao) during the cultural revolution will enjoy this book. But if you are looking for a story about the life of Pearl Buck, you will be happy with the first half of the book, but will find the second half sorely lacking. I found myself turning to the internet as soon as I was done reading to find out more about Buck’s life after China and her foundation, Pearl S. Buck International.

This isn’t my favorite Anchee Min book, but it still is a strong story that certainly is worth a read. And the scenes with Madam Mao really whetted my appetite to read Min’s book about her, Becoming Madame Mao (Min actually knew Madame Mao personally). But I will wait awhile before doing another Min book. 4 stars.