Friday, April 13, 2012

Peony: A Novel of China by Pearl S. Buck (audio)


Peony: A Novel of China
by Pearl S. Buck
Narrated by Kristen Potter
Oasis Audio, 2011
12 hours and 30 min
originally published 1948

Publisher's Summary:

Young Peony is sold into a rich Chinese household as a bondmaid -- an awkward role in which she is more than a servant, but less than a daughter. As she grows into a lovely, provocative young woman, Peony falls in love with the family's only son. However, tradition forbids them to wed. How she resolves her love for him and her devotion to her adoptive family unfolds in this profound tale, based on true events in China over a century ago.
"The conflicts inherent in the Chinese and Jewish temperament are delicately and intricately traced with profound wisdom and delicate understanding in this tale... This is an enchanting story, the theme of which is tolerance. Highly recommended." --Library Journal


My thoughts:
Years ago, I read Pearl S. Buck's The Good Earth. It was my introduction to the author and instantly became an all-time favorite. The story and cultural portrayals were fascinating and I remember not being able to put it down. Many years passed before I returned to Buck's work, listening to Pavilion of Women late in 2010. It was an audio favorite that year and I was again drawn into the lives of an old Chinese family.

When Peony became available through audible.com last year, I knew I would listen. Again, the fabulous storytelling I'd come to expect was evident, but Peony seemed deeper and more thought-provoking. It's interesting to note that it was written in 1948, after The Good Earth (1935) and Pavilion of Women (1946). The household Peony serves is of both Jewish and Chinese ancestry. David, the only son and love of Peony's life, must come to terms with their profoundly different philosophical outlooks and decide how to proceed with his life. Peony's story is equally compelling. An afterward, explaining the Jewish presence in China, proves Buck's historical accuracy. It's very effectively placed after the novel.

A note on the audio production: 
Kristen Potter does an excellent job narrating. Her reading of Brooklyn by Colm Toibin was an audio favorite a few years ago, and her pacing and tone here were perfect for the story. I especially enjoyed her portrayal of David's mother, Madame Ezra. I will listen to her again soon - The Lotus Eaters is waiting in my audio library.

My rating:



Jen at Devourer of Books collects audiobook reviews every Friday for her Sound Bytes feature. Stop by and read her review, then click over to see what others have posted. Feel free to link up your own audiobook review, too.

23 comments:

  1. I read a horrible book based on Pearl S. Buck but not one of her books. I swore I would read Good Earth right afterward but it never happened. Glad you liked this one.

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    1. Ti - I remember there was a novel based on Buck's life not too long ago... sounds like I made the right decision by skipping it. Hope you get to read The Good Earth soon. It's actually a trilogy. I picked up book 2 (Sons) not too long ago, but may need to reread The Good Earth first.

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  3. I need to read The Good Earth and this one as well. Thanks for the great recommendation.

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    1. Kathleen - I want to read quite a few more of Buck's novels. Hope you get a chance to read The Good Earth.

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  4. I'm reading Pavilion of Women with a book group next month, and I have this book on the TBR shelf also! I don't know why it's taken me so long to read more Pearl Buck. I've read and discussed The Good Earth with two different book groups and loved it both times. I haven't tried Audible yet but I may need to break down and use it to work through my TBR list faster!

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    1. Karen K. - I would never have thought to try Buck on audio, but won a twitter contest and got to select an audiobook of my choice. That was Pavilion of Women. Since then, audible has added a couple more of her titles. Buck's novels are excellent in both print and audio!

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  5. This sounds like a good one, and happy to hear that the narrator worked well -- so important for an audio to succeed.

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    1. Diane - It's was a great audiobook. A good reader can make or break the listening experience!

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  6. This sounds absolutely fascinating. I'm adding it to my list, especially since *shock, horror* I've never read Pearl S. Buck before.

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    1. Diana - This was a great book and, as an added bonus, I got to a little history lesson. Buck is a wonderful storyteller.

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  7. I loved The Good Earth...I'm looking to spend my credit for this month at audible, so it might be this one! :D

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    1. Staci - I really want to reread The Good Earth. It has great member ratings at audible.com, so I may consider a listen next time. Peony was excellent!

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  8. I've yet to read any Pearl Buck, but you make this one sound very appealing!

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    1. Sam - Peony was wonderful and so was Pavilion of Women, but most people know Buck through The Good Earth. I would highly recommend any of them as a starting point.

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  9. I read and loved The Good Earth years ago, but I think that was the only book of hers our library had at the time - so I never realized how many more of her books there were - or even that it was part of a trilogy. But this one sounds realy interesting - the mix of Chinese and Jewish cultures.

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    1. Lisa May - I plan to reread (or listen to) The Good Earth and continue with the trilogy. Bought the second book, Sons, a couple of summers ago at Strand Books in NYC. David's struggle to come to terms with the blending of two cultural heritages in Peony was very well done. I knew nothing of the Jewish presence in China, so found the historical notes at the end fascinating, too.

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  10. Didn;t realize that this was an historical novel that explains the Jewish presence in China during that period. Must put this on my list. Love historical novels!

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    1. Harvee - Think you might enjoy this one!

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  11. This sounds so good - one I haven't read. I have Good Earth on my list this year to reread. I'm going to consider this one too.

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    1. Margot - I really need to reread The Good Earth myself. Will be curious to see what I think of it at this point in my life. I do think you would enjoy Peony... and Pavilion of Women, too!

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  12. I haven't read The Good Earth for years and years, but I loved it, this sounds like one worth listening to as well!

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    1. Jen - I'm starting to think you can never go wrong with Pearl Buck!

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