Hello hello. I’m a huge book passionate and whenever I hear of a book I never read before, I usually look around the internet to find a “critique” that will give me some hints so I can decide if I should read it or not. So this morning, after returning two incredible books to our very friendly school librarian, I decided to write my first book review. Maybe I’ll be the reason why somebody out there gets curious about the book I’m about to talk about: “Pavilion of women” by Pearl Buck. I hope you like this book review, and excuse me if i’m not aware of ‘book reviewing etiquette’, and feel free to comment or share you ideas down below.
The first thing that catched me in the book was the editor ‘Le livre de poche’ that only publishes great authors and must read novels. The second thing that actually made me take the book home was the painting that pictures two traditional chinese women, and the fourth cover that got me even more curious about the pre-communist China during the Second world war. I never read a book about China, nor a book from a chinese author, so I think choosing Pavilion of women as the first gate to this culture I know so little about –in depth- is wonderful.
The story is set during the Second world war and is centred around a wealthy and respected old-fashioned family called Wu, especially the astute and judicious Madame Wu who carries out a surprising decision after her fortieth birthday: retire from married life and select a concubine for her husband. The extended household is thrown into an uproar by her decision, but Madame Wu, elegant and detached, orchestrates this change as firmly as she manages everything in the household of more than sixty relatives and servants. One of the reasons why she decided to step back was to finally be free from all her duties in order to find herself and start taking care of her own growth instead of the well-being of everyone else. But she soon realizes that all she believed in was actually holding her back. A foreigner free-thinker priest, called Brother Andre (Father Andre in the french version I read) who first came in as her son’s english teacher, was the source of this realisation as he changed her life completely! He showed her that the mind has no limits, and that only love can bring happiness to the inner self, concept that Madame Wu never allowed herself to feel. Alone in her own quarters, with the wisdom and wit of Brother Andre and her own insight, she begins a true journey to immortality.
I was surprised to get this drawn into Pearl Buck’s “Pavilion of Women”, but the story is deep and the main protagonist so relatable that one can only drift away and grow with Madame Wu throughout her quest to true happiness. The platonic love she shares with Brother Andre is so naïve and spirit based that it made me wish I had such a connection. In another hand, Buck’s writing style is subtle and genuine and makes the reader picture the story like a scene he can connect with and feel rather than just words on paper. I just read that the author won a Nobel and Pulitzer prize, and there’s no doubt she deserves it for sharing with the world the traditions, lifestyle, and so many more aspects of the traditional China, and all that with so much spirit. The book also explores the psychology of the different relationships between the chinese family members: wife and husband, mother and son… And all of these elements combined allowed the book to touch me profoundly.
Some books move you and give you a whole different perspective on a culture, people or philosophy, and “Pavilion of women” is definitely one of these books, so I highly recommend it. But only to those who are as curious, grow oriented and as willing to learn as Madame Wu, cause otherwise, you won’t get the depth and feel like it’s just another boring book about old China.
“-What is she doing?” They asked as Madame Wu’s sons and husband gathered around her. She was inert, her eyes looked empty, but her soul was more alive than ever, way beyond the four walls around her. Astral dreaming or just wondering, who knows where she landed?
-She finally realized she has wings but that within these walls, she can’t fly! Said Fengmo.”