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BOOK LIST:

Pearl S. Buck

Updated: April 1, 2015

A selection of works written by Pearl S. Buck who was the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1938.


by Buck, Pearl S. 1892-1973.
Call Number: Ed.c

In Peal S. Buck's first published novel, a young Chinese woman relates the conflicts that occur when she is married to a man who has been educated in the United States. As her own situation gradually resolves, her older brother, also having gone to the west to study, marries an American woman despite his almost lifelong betrothal to the daughter of his father's friend. The resulting clash between cultures and generations has serious repercussions. A beautifully told story that sheds light on ancient traditions and the difficulties in breaking from them.


by Buck, Pearl S. 1892-1973.
 

This collection is divided into three sections. In the first, "Old and New" we experience the clash of new ideas with ancient traditions from numerous points of view. Whether from a wife who, in heeding the edicts of a rigid society, only to find herself useless and stupid in the eyes of her husband when he returns from seven years of study in the West, or from a newly returned student who realizes his family sees him as only a business investment, Buck's characters are subject to powerful emotions in the face of their private struggles. The second and third sections, respectively, are "Revolution" and "Flood", bringing the harsh realities of political strife and nature's indifference into focus from the perspective of those trying to make the world better, or merely to survive.


by Buck, Pearl S. 1892-1973.
Call Number: Ed.b
This acclaimed, best-selling, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel set in China before the 1949 revolution follows the life of a farmer named Wang Lung from the day of his marriage to a former slave named O-Lan. Aided by her industry and thrift, their life together is prosperous, yielding both monetary gain and children, until famine forces the family to leave their village to beg and work menial jobs in the south. Throughout this ordeal, Wang Lung has refused to sell his land, and chance fortune allows them to return to it and rebuild their wealth beyond anything they had imagined. A fascinating epic, filled with details of daily life and traditions.

by Buck, Pearl S. 1892-1973.
Call Number: Ed.a
Many cultural changes are taking place throughout China as the final book in "The Good Earth" trilogy follows Wang Yuan, son of Wang the Tiger, through his early adult years. After defying his father, Yuan goes to the coastal city to live with his half-sister and her mother, feeling part of a family for the first time since he was a toddler. An admirer persuades him to join his cousin's revolutionary cell, but later betrays him because he cannot return her affections. His family's wealth rescues him from execution, and permits him to avoid further immediate danger by studying abroad. Though troubled by his outsider status in a foreign country, he learns much, reconnects with his love for the land, and befriends a young woman. Returning home, he struggles to reconcile his memories with the reality which greets him, just as the populace is struggling to reconcile the old ways with the new. In his touching final reunion with his father, he discovers the key to his own survival.

by Buck, Pearl S. 1892-1973.
Call Number: Ed.b
A young mother's life in the wake of her husband's desertion is chronicled in this book set in pre-revolutionary rural China. His disappearance is abrupt, and at first she expects he will return, but as she realizes he is really gone, she goes to great lengths to save face in her community through a series of carefully orchestrated lies. Though she suffers great hardship, her fierce determination and strength allow her to maintain the rice crops and keep her three children and mother-in-law fed and clothed. In her loneliness, she falls prey to an unscrupulous man, gets pregnant, and with the help of a loyal cousin who knows about poisonous herbs, goes through a painful abortion. She believes that this great sin is responsible for all her ensuing tragedies. Though the story is by no means uplifting, the mother perseveres, exemplifying the strength of the human spirit in adversity.

by Buck, Pearl S. (Pearl Sydenstricker), 1892-1973.
Call Number: Ed.b
The story begins near the turn of the 19th century when Peony, a Chinese bondmaid for a wealthy Jewish family in Kaifeng, is eighteen years old. Purchased as a child for the family’s only son, David, she has grown up with him and received much kindness as well as an education. She is just realizing that she is in love with David as his devout mother, Madame Ezra, is hastening David’s arranged marriage with the Rabbi’s daughter, Leah. Observant and clever, yet always adherent to household and societal duties, Peony attempts to steer events to her advantage. But despite her intelligence and efficiency, occurrences beyond her control cause dramatic changes to the entire household. It is as much the story of Madame Ezra’s desperate attempt to keep her small Jewish community from completely assimilating into the tolerant Chinese culture, as of romantic entanglements. Buck reveals the intricacies of both personal and cultural relationships through detailed descriptions of daily life, and the thoughts and actions of a multitude of characters. Though purely a work of fiction, the historical circumstances are based on an actual colony of Jews who settled in the region centuries prior to the novel’s action. The 2004 Moyer Bell edition (Ed.b in lapl’s catalog) includes a map and timeline of their experience in China, plus an extensive afterword by Wendy R. Abraham. 
 

by Buck, Pearl S. 1892-1973.
Call Number: Ed.c

The second book in "The Good Earth" trilogy, follows Wang Lung's three sons' lives following their father's death. The eldest becomes a reluctant landlord and lives a fairly extravagant, lordly existence. The second son becomes a shrewd merchant, but lives frugally, keeping the vastness of his riches hidden. The youngest son, Wang the Tiger, carries the main focus of the story. He ran away, while quite young, to become a soldier. He is ambitious, forms his own army, and deserts his general, who has become comfortable and complacent. Though fierce, he is a just man who earns the respect of the common people even as he conquers them and taxes them to keep his army fed and equipped. Buck has a knack for revealing the innermost desires of her characters while remaining a distanced narrator. The tale has many moving moments as she details the subtle complexities of both personal and systemic relationships.


by Buck, Pearl S. (Pearl Sydenstricker), 1892-1973.
Call Number: Ed.a

Susan Gaylore wants everything--marriage, house, family, friends, and the chance to express herself creatively.  At the book's start, as she is about to marry her childhood sweetheart, it is clear that she is skilled at many things, and they come easily to her.  She sews, cooks, gardens, plays piano, maintains friendships, and models in clay. She is thoughtful and kind, but her awareness that others think of her as a different breed leads to a disconnected loneliness. As she embarks on her adult life, she wrestles with her myriad desires in the 1930's world of extremely narrow expectations of women. Though encouraged by her husband to carry out her sculpting ambitions, she holds herself back until events push her to explore her artistic possibilities, or allow a vital part of herself to perish.  The story takes place mainly in a small community somewhere in rural American, but moves to Paris and New York.  Though some aspects of the book are dated, the essential struggle that women face in balancing responsibilities and self-fullfillment remains the same, and Buck crafts a compelling, intense portrait of a complex female artist.


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