Pavilion of Women
A Pulitzer Prize-winning Author
A Nobel Prize-winning Author
Many of Pearl Buck's award-winning novels dealt largely with the peasants, the plain people of China, whose lives - though sturdy and dramatic - were rarely complex, whose thoughts and words were simple and direct. In Pavilion of Women, the story is of a great family of the landed gentry, well-to-do, cultivated, aware and in the midst of the variety of human experience.
On her fortieth birthday, Madame Wu carries out a decision she has been planning for a long time: she tells her husband that after twenty-four years their physical life together is now over and she wishes him to take a second wife. The House of Wu, one of the oldest and most revered in China, is thrown into an uproar by her decision, but Madame Wu will not be dissuaded and arranges for a young country girl to come take her place in bed. Elegant and detached, Madame Wu orchestrates this change as she manages everything in the extended household of more than sixty relatives and servants. Alone in her own quarters, she relishes her freedom and reads books she has never been allowed to touch. When her son begins English lessons, she listens, and is soon learning from the "foreigner," a free-thinking priest named Brother Andre, who will change her life. The Pavilion of Women is a thought-provoking combination of Old China, unorthodox Christianity, and liberation, written by Pearl S. Buck, a Nobel Prize winner born and raised in China. Few books raise so many questions about the nature and roles of men and women, about self-discipline and happiness. At the center is the amazing Madame Wu - brilliant, beautiful, full of contradictions and authority. -- For great reviews of books for girls, check out Let's Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. -- From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Erica Bauermeister
From the Publisher
Madame Wu was to retire from married life and had planned to select a concubine for her husband. When the revered House of Wu is upturned by her decision, Madame Wu elegantly manages the situation and is granted private time she never had before. Yet, with all this new freedom, and the arrival of her son's English teacher, how will Madame Wu change?
"Pavilion of Women is Miss Buck at her best, the dedicated storyteller. Beneath the deceptive simplicity of the narrative flows the clear, swift tide of human life--the small commonplaces of daily living, the clashes of personality, the episodes mean and magnificent."
--Saturday Review of Literature
About the Author
Pearl S. Buck was born in West Virginia and taken to China as an infant before the turn of the century. Buck grew up speaking Chinese as well as English. She is the most widely translated American author to this day. She has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize for Literature. She died in 1973.
Most helpful customer reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful.
I would have never picked this book up if it weren't for my book club. Once I picked it up, I couldn't put it down till I was finished with this book. It is a very moving and thoughtful book ~~ opening my eyes to something else that I would have never thought of reading.
This book is about Madame Wu, who decided to retire from married life at the age of 40. She suggested a concubine for her husband as she believes very strongly that his needs need to be met ~~ just not by her. Her excuse is that she didn't want to bear any more children, but that is just a public excuse, one she offered to everyone who asked. The truth is, she didn't love her husband and wanted to retire from that part of her marriage. Needless to say, it unsettled the entire family ~~ even the concubine was unsettled. It reverberated throughout the entire book till the very end, when everyone seems to have moved onto their own problems.
This is a book on a busy wealthy Chinese family. It is about traditions and ideas, non-traditions, love and finding purpose in life. It is about family relationships between father, son, mother, son, mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, friendships, and even between mistress and servant.
Madame Wu never thought she'd find peace and happiness till one of her sons' instructors came along. He was a Jesuit priest and they struck up a friendship based on conversations (which she remembered after his death). He literally changed her life and thought process. From being a woman who always did what she was told, she was liberated to being a free-thinking woman who strove to find peace in her soul.
It is a book that I would recommend to all readers ~~ and it is definitely a book for a book club to discuss! It is a timeless classic novel ~~ and definitely a great introduction to an author that I have heard about but never have read. I can't wait to read her other books!
0 of 0 people found the following review helpful.
Tradition and Culture in a Changing World
By Phyllis Godwin
Decades ago when I was in high school I read a couple of Pearl Buck books and love them. Recently I. Decided to read Buck's writings again and was not disappointed. The author takes the Wu family through times of family change and upheaval even as the world is changing around them. If you enjoy reading about Chinese culture, you will enjoy this book.
0 of 0 people found the following review helpful.
An all-encompassing, magical read
I am more than a little embarrassed to say I had never known of Buck before happening across this work a few days ago, though I now have absolutely no doubt that all her praise, including the Nobel Prize, is completely deserved .
The author possesses an almost supernatural ability to bring distant people , ideas, and culture to the forefront of the reader's mind, drawing upon color and feeling that could easily compel the reader to believe the work is something of their own memory.
As with any protagonist, Madam Wu is is impossible to fully love or fully hate, but remains impossible to ignore. Her expressions of grief , love, and self-examination offer insight to all who are enchanted by her words.