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Pavilion of Women


Pavilion of Women

Although many of Pearl Buck's novels centered around themes of
marriage and family, PAVILION OF WOMEN was a fairly radical
approach to the subject of men and women in the decade of the 40s.
Women's liberation was still catching its breath before the next
big battle; the sexual revolution was twenty years in the future.
Yet Buck tackles these issues head-on through the story of Madame
Wu with a frankness that was probably shocking at the
Madame Wu, a woman from a prestigious Chinese family, has
reached her fortieth birthday and come to a momentous decision. She
no longer wishes to have a physical relationship with her husband,
but instead declares her intention to find him a suitable
concubine. In the tradition of old Chinese families, her sons and
their wives and their many children and servants all live within a
loosely connected compound. The entire family is outraged at the
thought of a "second wife" being insinuated into their home. This
is an era of great change in Chinese society; Western ideas are
becoming commonly accepted and sanctioned adultery is now
scandalous. But Madame Wu is the virtual head of the household and
determined to spend the remainder of her life in peaceful pursuits,
free from the heavy responsibilities that her position and marriage
Naturally, what seems to be a simple solution to Madame Wu,
soon becomes far more complicated than she could have imagined.
Aside from the turmoil surrounding the new wife, her sons and their
wives have turbulent marriages as well which begin creating havoc
in all quarters. Since ancient custom dictates that the mother
intervene, she soon finds her days more chaotic and demanding than
before. When a liberal-minded priest enters the picture as a tutor,
Madame Wu begins to see her carefully arranged plans in an entirely
different light and she seeks guidance from a man that will change
her life forever.

the hands of a lesser writer, this story of families and
relationships could have quickly become a tiresome melodrama or
disintegrated into comic satire. But Buck masterfully brings
important ideas to fruition in both dialogue and thought, provoking
critical questions on the nature of love and the polarity of men
and women. She explores the institution of marriage from every
angle, broaching topics of fidelity, compatibility and expectations
in relationships. Although these issues are clouded somewhat by the
customs indicative of the Chinese culture, the ultimate problems
are universal. There will undoubtedly be a great deal in her
narration that will sound similar to the mainstream literature
today, but some of her conclusions may surprise you.

Reviewed by Ann Bruns on January 22, 2011

Pavilion of Women
by Pearl S. Buck

  • Publication Date: November 30, -0001
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 316 pages
  • Publisher: Moyer Bell Ltd.
  • ISBN-10: 1559210249
  • ISBN-13: 9781559210249