Book Review: Peony by Pearl S. Buck (Five Stars)

Book Review: Peony by Pearl S. Buck

(Five Stars)

“You paid money for me, but that does not make me yours. A human creature can’t be bought whole.”

Excellent. Buck delves deep into the thoughts and emotions of the title character and those closest to her. Unlike typical novels, the reader is immersed in the flow of hopes and uncertainty of all the principal cast. Based on history, Buck explores the assimilation of Jewish communities which had existed for hundreds of years in China.

“Out of the dark and sullen bottom of a lake the lotus flowers bloomed upon its surface, and she would pluck the flowers.”

A full immersion for the reader in the life and times of a Jewish remnant in China. Paradoxically the Jews in Europe, persecuted to death, kept to their faith and culture; while Jewish communities in China, tolerated if not welcomed, flourished for hundreds of years but eventually faded.

“She knew now what she wanted and would have. There remained only the matter of how to get it and keep it.”

Herself a Chinese girl bonded to a Jewish family, Peony suffers many hopes, frustrations and a few victories as she bridges Chinese and Jewish culture. Those around her are blessed by the role she fashions, not following the accepted pattern of either her own people or the semi-assimilated Jews.

“Is life happy or sad?” “Life is sad. You cannot be happy until you understand that life is sad. Expecting nothing, I am glad for anything.”

Many insightful and colorful epigrams: “I do not blame you for growing up, but … whatever happens is always the woman’s fault.” “People do strange things when they are religious.” “These poor eyes can still weep, even though they can no longer see.” “To hate another human being is to take a worm into one’s vitals. It consumes life.” “Happiness is waiting to be chosen.”  “So his heart made its own choice, after all, and his soul was silent.” “They are no more and yet they live forever.”

3 thoughts on “Book Review: Peony by Pearl S. Buck (Five Stars)

  1. You’ve reminded me I need to read more of Pearl S. Buck’s work. I will never forget the short story, ‘The Fringe.’ She is one of the writers I have learned much from, as her storytelling is not at all precious, as much as lit from within.

  2. Have read Buck before. Should be rated as a great feminist writer, but what do I know?

    • If you respect women and accord us equal opportunities and rights, then you know all you need to know about feminism. And thanks for reminding me of Pearl Buck – I read just about everything by her years ago – need to do it again!

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