Wednesday, May 04, 2011

East Wind: West Wind

 East Wind: West Wind. Pearl S. Buck. 1930/1995. Moyer Bell. 288 pages.

These things I may tell you, My Sister. I could not speak thus even to one of my own people, for she could not understand the far countries where my husband lived for twelve years. Neither could I talk freely to one of the alien women who do not know my people and the manner of life we have had since the time of the ancient empire. But you? You have lived among us all your years. Although you belong to those other lands where my husband studied his western books, you will understand. I speak the truth. I have named you My Sister. I will tell you everything.

I loved this one. I just LOVED, LOVED, LOVED it. As in I think I may have found (another) author to become obsessed with.

East Wind: West Wind was Pearl S. Buck's first novel. It's set in China. Our selfless heroine, Kwei-lan, finds herself in a troubling position. She's been raised in a very traditional home. She's been raised--some might even say trained--from a very, very young age to please her future family--her future mother-in-law, her future husband. As a daughter, her mother has always, always kept in mind that she is not truly of their family. Kwei-lan's marriage has been arranged--set in place--since the time she was a baby. The first few chapters chronicle her childhood, her bringing up. Readers get a glimpse of the culture. How women lead very separate lives from the men. How women are to be silent and obedient and always willing to please their husbands, their masters. Readers get a glimpse of this culture. Of what made a woman beautiful, attractive, desirable. And one of the things that made a woman beautiful are incredibly tiny feet which led of course to the practice of binding feet. (Being able to cook well also helped a woman please her husband. And you HAVE to know how to pour tea for your elders.)

But our heroine, our narrator, is in for quite a shock. For her husband has spent time in the West. He has become educated; he's a doctor. He prefers to break with some of the traditions, to live a more modern life. He wants his wife to be more of an equal and less of a slave. He wants his wife to be his companion. He wants to share his life with someone. He doesn't want a silent shadow, an obedient slave. He wants more. The first step may just be the hardest--for he is asking his wife to unbind her feet.

East Wind: West Wind is all about tension and drama. For though our heroine wants to please her husband, although she is fascinated by some of these new ideas, she finds it difficult to forget everything she's grown up believing. It's not something that can be done in one week, one month, or one year.

But. This isn't her story alone. No. Some of the most dramatic scenes in the novel focus on her brother. Like her husband, her brother has been educated in the West, he has spent time in foreign countries. He's learned to adapt to new ways of life. And he does NOT want to return to China to marry the woman he's been betrothed to since he was a young child. He wants to marry for love. He wants to marry an American girl, Mary. He wants to live life on his terms--not having to obey every decree of his father and mother. He does marry the girl of his dreams. He does bring her back to China. But can he make anyone in his family accept her? love her? Will he regret marrying for love? Will she? Can they find a place for themselves in China? 

East Wind: West Wind is an intense family drama. It's simple yet emotional. I loved the style of this one. How it's told in story format. She's telling her story directly to "My Sister." It's a beautiful, beautiful novel. Bittersweet, in a way, yet very compelling.

I would definitely recommend this one!!!

Have you read Pearl S. Buck? Do you have a favorite novel? Which would you recommend?!

Other reviews: Hot Cup of Coffee. The Wu Way.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Anonymous said...

Thanks! for sharing, must read. said...

Just from the excerpt of East Wind, West Wind, I fell in love. I love stories that flow like poetical strings of words. The excerpt made me want more. Thanks for the review. You made a believer out of me on this one.

Sherry said...

Have you read Imperial Woman? It's the only Pearl Buck book I'v read besides The Good Earth, and I remember liking it very much, even though it seemed a little melodramatic at times. Mostly though, it was quite exciting and historically informative.