Book Review: Pearl Buck in China

I recently received a copy of Pearl Buck in China to read and review.  I'll admit that I had never heard of Pearl Buck when I agreed to read the book, so I wasn't sure just how interested I would be in this biography written by Hilary Spurling.
First, some brief info on Pearl Buck. She born in 1892 as the daughter of missionaries living in China.  She grew up to become a Pulitzer Prize winning author (for 1931's "The Good Earth") and later won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938.  She lived in China exclusively from the age of 3 months until she left for college in America.  Upon graduation from Randolph-Macon College in Virginia she returned to China, where she lived for for twenty years until the Communist political climate (and a total mistrust of Americans) caused she and her husband to move back to America permanently.  As I said, I had never heard of Pearl Buck, but found myself enjoying her story – both as an author and as a Presbyterian missionary in her own right – and have been inspired to add "The Good Earth" to my reading wish list. 
What I did not enjoy, however, was the audiobook.  Perhaps if I had been reading physical pages I would have forgiven a lot, but I didn't have that luxury.  The audiobook was read by the author (ALWAYS a mistake, I've found) in such a way that it almost made the riveting account of Pearl's life completely uninteresting.  It was a struggle at times to listen to the author read her book – whether she was mispronouncing words (it's "frugality," not "frugrality") or ending sentences in such a way that it sounded like she didn't actually finish them. 
I also got a sense that I wasn't reading a biography so much as a dissertation about Pearl Buck.  Having gone through the process of writing a senior thesis myself while in college, I absolutely got the sense that the author was spending the whole book attempting to prove something.  And yet, as I got to the final five minutes of the book – I got no conclusion.  The book just ends.  Without really ending at all.  Very dissatisfying.
Having said that, do I recommend this book?  Sure – but not the audiobook.  If you can handle dry, just-the-facts writing then you'll be able to get through this one and will probably feel inspired to buy "The Good Earth."  Then again – I might just recommend you get "The Good Earth" and get your inspiration from there instead.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this audiobook free from Oasis Audio as part of their Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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One comment

  1. I have listened to a few, not many, books narrated by the author that were really good. Tops in the category, IMO: When Character Was King, by Peggy Noonan.

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