Tag Archive > China

Hilary Spurling talks to Curious Book Fans

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Pearl Buck (1892-1973) was the first person to make China accessible to the West. She recreated the lives of ordinary Chinese people in “The Good Earth“, an overnight worldwide bestseller in 1932, later a blockbuster movie. “The Good Earth” still sells around 10,000 copies in the UK every year. Buck went on to become the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938.

Pearl Buck
Pearl Buck

The biography of Pearl Buck has been published by Profile Books on April 1st, 2010. Apart from reviewing the book “Burying the Bones – Pearl Buck in China” we were curious to hear a little bit more from Hilary Spurling, the author of this extraordinary biography.

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The Life and Times of Pearl S Buck

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Burying The Bones: Pearl Buck in China By Hilary SpurlingPearl Buck was born to missionary parents in America, but the family moved to Zhenjiang in China while she was still very small and Pearl grew up bilingual – in many ways, she was more Chinese than English. Her father, Absalom Sydenstricker, was a determined man and although his beliefs were frequently rejected by the Chinese, he forged ahead with his teachings. Carie, his wife, supported him as best she could, although they often argued over what was best for the children. Pearl grew up into a determined young woman herself, who also became a missionary, although her views were much less forthright. Marrying John Lossing Buck, an agricultural missionary, she lived through one of the most violent periods of unrest in Chinese history, until finally forced to move to the US permanently in 1935.

Apart from the fact that her experience of China and the Chinese people at that time was second to none, her main claim to fame is that she was an author, using her storytelling skills to educate the West about the ordinary Chinese people. Her most famous book, The Good Earth, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932 and she was later awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.

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Love is All Sustaining

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 Under Fishbone Clouds by Sam MeekingsThe Jade Emperor wants the Kitchen God to study humans and what keeps them alive even when war and political unrest cause great unhappiness. He picks a newly married couple, Bian Yuying and her husband, Hou Jinyi. Their marriage takes place in the 1940s, just before China became a Communist country, and really only happened because Hou Jinyi was poor and Yuying’s family thought it would help with their political status once Communism comes in. The couple are forced to move to the countryside to earn a living, and lose two babies along the way. Eventually finding their way back to the city, they start up new lives and have more children, but then the Cultural Revolution rears its ugly head, tearing their lives apart once more. How do they find the strength to continue living when being beaten and criticised for their bourgeois past and forced to work in different parts of the country?

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The Russian Concubine

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 The Russian Concubine by Kate Furnivall I would imagine that most people would know the author Kate Furnivall from her book published in 2008, “Under The Blood Red Sky” – I have yet to read it, but even I recognise it’s distinctive cover and I’ve read a few reviews on it praising its contents.

The Russian Concubine”  is published before the aforementioned book in 2007 and tells the story of a beautiful Russian woman, Valentina, and her fiery daughter Lydia who have been exiled from Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution.  Valentina and Lydia are taking refuge in Junchow, China , living in poverty and unable to see a way out.  With her mothers increasing addiction to alcohol, Lydia takes it upon herself to survive their situation and resorts to stealing.

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