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
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
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.
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