Twas a sad, sad day to reach the end of this one. Let’s just say it didn’t win a Pulitzer for nothing. This book is written in a tone that is at once clear and refreshing, because Buck is bi-cultural and the viewpoint, sayings, mindsets she takes from China affect her writing in subtle yet important ways.
One gets a solid sense of the way people lived and reasoned in China about 100 years ago–with the male preference for bound feet, the reverence of family, the disconnect between country and city, the immensity of the land that segregates townships in times of plenty and in times of dirt-eating hardship.
Buck takes us primarily into the mind and aspirations of male protagonist Wang Lung, and we feel the momentum of his success as he makes many sound decisions … while life around him proves test after test, and those around him bicker, back stab and whine. That is, with the exception of Olan, Pear Blossom and his ‘poor fool.’ The heart of the author, and thus of this book, is that of every character within–it is profoundly real and one of the most honest and raw I’ve ever experienced as a reader.
While the heart of the protagonist and his first wife are sincere and weep-worthy, the hearts of the supporting characters and the heart of society at that time are fickle, ruthless, passive, anxious, angry and as real as the dirt under your nails in the garden.