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Pearl of China
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Anchee Min's new novel reveals the extraordinary life of Pearl S Buck; Nobel Prize-winning Buck wrote bestselling novel The Good Earth, the first paperback ever published in the USA which recently shot up the bestseller charts again as an Oprah pick Empress Orchid has sold 400,000 copies and was a Richard & Judy Club selection Publication will be marked with major consumer advertising to captivate all the fans of Empress Orchid and The Last Empress

As a girl in Maoist China, Min (Red Azalea) was ordered to denounce Pearl S. Buck; now she offers a thin sketch of the Nobel laureate's life from the point of view of fictional Willow Yee, a fiercely loyal friend. A lifelong friendship begins in Chin-kiang when Willow meets Pearl, whose missionary father converts Willow's educated but impoverished father. Under threat from hostilities toward foreigners, Pearl departs for the safety of Shanghai, and, later, to America for college, but she returns for her wedding to find that Willow is the satisfied founder of a newspaper and a very unhappy wife. While a changing China swirls around them, their friendship is tested as they both fall in love with the same poet. As the 1949 revolution looms, Pearl flees China, and Willow's husband becomes Mao's right-hand man, leading to a fateful showdown with Madam Mao when Willow refuses to denounce her lifelong friend. Though the setting and revolutionary backdrop are inherently dramatic, Min's account of an epic friendship is curiously low-key, with some sections reading more like a treatment than a narrative. (Apr.) Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.

About the Author

Anchee Min was born in Shanghai in 1957, and grew up during Mao's Cultural Revolution (1964-1976). As a teenager she was taught to denounce Pearl S. Buck as an American Cultural Imperialist. At the age of seventeen she was sent to a labour collective, where a talent scout for Madame Mao recruited her to work in propaganda films as an actress because of her proletarian look. In 1984, at the age of twenty-seven, Anchee Min left China for the United States. She first learned English through American public radio and children's television programmes and talk shows. To earn a living she worked as a house-cleaner, waitress, fabric-painter, and in construction and plumbing, while going to school at night. Anchee Min's memoir Red Azalea was published in 1994 and was chosen as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, with rights sold in over twenty countries. Anchee Min is also the author of best-selling historical fiction novels including Becoming Madame Mao, Empress Orchid (a Richard & Judy selection in 2006) and The Last Empress.

Reviews

As a girl in Maoist China, Min (Red Azalea) was ordered to denounce Pearl S. Buck; now she offers a thin sketch of the Nobel laureate's life from the point of view of fictional Willow Yee, a fiercely loyal friend. A lifelong friendship begins in Chin-kiang when Willow meets Pearl, whose missionary father converts Willow's educated but impoverished father. Under threat from hostilities toward foreigners, Pearl departs for the safety of Shanghai, and, later, to America for college, but she returns for her wedding to find that Willow is the satisfied founder of a newspaper and a very unhappy wife. While a changing China swirls around them, their friendship is tested as they both fall in love with the same poet. As the 1949 revolution looms, Pearl flees China, and Willow's husband becomes Mao's right-hand man, leading to a fateful showdown with Madam Mao when Willow refuses to denounce her lifelong friend. Though the setting and revolutionary backdrop are inherently dramatic, Min's account of an epic friendship is curiously low-key, with some sections reading more like a treatment than a narrative. (Apr.) Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.

PRAISE FOR EMPRESS ORCHID: 'Rich in detail and historical background, the novel drenches readers in the colours, textures and affluence of the Forbidden City ... a stirring, exotic novel that is a treat for the senses and the intellect alike' Los Angeles Times 'Empress Orchid is strong on both sexual chicanery and violent conspiracy ... a fascinating account' Guardian 'An engrossing story ... enhanced by Min's imaginative power ... Like all good novelists, she implies as much as she says, and her characterisation is subtle and worldly-wise' Glasgow Herald 'I loved Empress Orchid ... a riveting read' Judy Finnigan

Min opens her latest with guilty sobs recalling her "brainwashed" teenaged self in 1970s China, when she was forced to denounce Pulitzer and Nobel prize-winning writer Pearl S. Buck to Madame Mao. That guilt clearly drove Min (Red Azalea) to write this "based on the life of Pearl S. Buck" novel about a fictional friendship between Buck and her Chinese best friend, Willow. Unfortunately, by book's end readers are left with little more than caricatures of a Chinese Saint Pearl and her long-suffering sidekick, both ultimately victims of the easily vilified Madame Mao. Buck and Willow bond as turn-of-the-century girls, and Min uses their lifelong relationship to chart China's tumultuous history. VERDICT A novel about Buck could have been interesting, but this one is marred by insipid dialog (Buck's husband should be more understanding because of his Cornell degree, her would-be lover wants to know if she "love[s] like a Chinese woman"), jolting gaps (Buck's adopted daughter, Janice, disappears after one mention), and apocryphal pronouncements (Buck apologizes via Voice of America for casting Western actors in Hollywood's whitewashed version of The Good Earth). Buck's story deserves better. With two autobiographies and 80-plus titles to choose from, readers can easily access Buck directly. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 12/09.]-Terry Hong, Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program, Washington, DC Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.

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