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Pavilion of Women

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On her fortieth birthday, Madame Wu carries out a decision she has been planning for a long time: she tells her husband that after twenty-four years their physical life together is now over and she wishes him to take a second wife. The House of Wu, one of the oldest and most revered in China, is thrown into an uproar by her decision, but Madame Wu will not be dissuaded and On her fortieth birthday, Madame Wu carries out a decision she has been planning for a long time: she tells her husband that after twenty-four years their physical life together is now over and she wishes him to take a second wife. The House of Wu, one of the oldest and most revered in China, is thrown into an uproar by her decision, but Madame Wu will not be dissuaded and arranges for a young country girl to come take her place in bed. Elegant and detached, Madame Wu orchestrates this change as she manages everything in the extended household of more than sixty relatives and servants. Alone in her own quarters, she relishes her freedom and reads books she has never been allowed to touch. When her son begins English lessons, she listens, and is soon learning from the foreigner, a free-thinking priest named Brother Andre, who will change her life. Few books raise so many questions about the nature and roles of men and women, about self-discipline and happiness.


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On her fortieth birthday, Madame Wu carries out a decision she has been planning for a long time: she tells her husband that after twenty-four years their physical life together is now over and she wishes him to take a second wife. The House of Wu, one of the oldest and most revered in China, is thrown into an uproar by her decision, but Madame Wu will not be dissuaded and On her fortieth birthday, Madame Wu carries out a decision she has been planning for a long time: she tells her husband that after twenty-four years their physical life together is now over and she wishes him to take a second wife. The House of Wu, one of the oldest and most revered in China, is thrown into an uproar by her decision, but Madame Wu will not be dissuaded and arranges for a young country girl to come take her place in bed. Elegant and detached, Madame Wu orchestrates this change as she manages everything in the extended household of more than sixty relatives and servants. Alone in her own quarters, she relishes her freedom and reads books she has never been allowed to touch. When her son begins English lessons, she listens, and is soon learning from the foreigner, a free-thinking priest named Brother Andre, who will change her life. Few books raise so many questions about the nature and roles of men and women, about self-discipline and happiness.

30 review for Pavilion of Women

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jo Ann

    My personal belief is that some books wait for us to come along and discover them they lie quietly, patiently, waiting for years maybe for the correct moment in our lives to be found. This book is one of them for me. I'll admit if I was to have read this book say 20 years ago I probably would not have enjoyed it so much or been able to appreciate the philosophical deepness of it. This book felt like it had waited for me to pick it up at just the right moment. I don't think I have ever read a boo My personal belief is that some books wait for us to come along and discover them they lie quietly, patiently, waiting for years maybe for the correct moment in our lives to be found. This book is one of them for me. I'll admit if I was to have read this book say 20 years ago I probably would not have enjoyed it so much or been able to appreciate the philosophical deepness of it. This book felt like it had waited for me to pick it up at just the right moment. I don't think I have ever read a book that has touched me in such a personal way as this one has. Madame Wu lives in two worlds one of the "old ways" and yet she is a very modern thinker of the new. When I first started reading this story I felt a little put off by Madame Wu and how she strived to be so perfect so in control of everything she did. For the first time ever I actually felt a little jealous over a fictional character. I have read a lot of books that made me feel many emotions but never envy. She had me stopping and thinking as to how I measured up as a wife and mother and maybe as a human being in general. As the story progresses we begin to see the real person that Madame Wu is she has reached the age of 40 and now she feels that she wants her time to do what she wants to do. She's done with bearing children and keeping her husband entertained and happy she's done her duty running a household and keeping everything in order and everyone satisfied. She wants a life of her own she wants to feel free to read books and to be herself and do the things she was never able to do. And so begins her plan if I can make everybody happy in the family then they will all go off into their own worlds and leave me alone to be in mine. Madame Wu was torn with a tough decision as to what to do about her husband if she continued to have sex with him she could find herself pregnant past forty. She also knew that if she refused him he'd just go down to the local flower house and take care of it himself so she makes a drastic decision against her friends and family's opinions and decides on a concubine. Will just fix Mr. Wu up with a nice girl of my choosing and then after everything settles down I can start my life or at least that's how the plan was suppose to work out. Slowly disaster after disaster arises and the family is thrown into chaos. She starts to study with Brother Andre a tutor she hired for her third son and he opens up her mind to a whole new way of thinking. Madame Wu comes to fully realize the complicated bonds between men and women are not so easily arranged and maybe in a way men and women are not so different, that we all need to feel love and be happy to achieve our highest potential. With wit, humor and layer upon layer of thought provoking dialogue author Pearl S. Buck is able to transcend time between the past and the present. This story makes you look at the relationships between men and women with a whole new appreciation.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Alice Poon

    This novel deeply moved me, not only because Pearl Buck illustrates in it her sweeping knowledge and sympathetic views of the Chinese society in early- to mid-20th century, but also because of the humanistic attitudes and nuanced philosophies that color and enliven her characters. This particular époque in China is one of East-West cultural clashes coming to the surface as the younger generations begin to seriously contemplate a clean break from the yoke of old Chinese traditions and customs and This novel deeply moved me, not only because Pearl Buck illustrates in it her sweeping knowledge and sympathetic views of the Chinese society in early- to mid-20th century, but also because of the humanistic attitudes and nuanced philosophies that color and enliven her characters. This particular époque in China is one of East-West cultural clashes coming to the surface as the younger generations begin to seriously contemplate a clean break from the yoke of old Chinese traditions and customs and embrace freedom of the mind and soul. This nascent way of thinking is particularly manifest in man-woman relationships and in the values and belief system. Christian missionaries play an important part in brewing social changes, but even among these, there are the dogmatic and the more liberal streams of preaching. The protagonist Madam Wu is first portrayed as the beautiful, all-wise, fastidious and capable mistress of the wealthy Wu household (which brings to mind the character Xue Baochai in Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin). With diplomacy, tact and intelligence, she manages her large household of sixty with success and accolades from within and without the family. Yet in the depths of her soul, she is a lonely creature yearning to be freed from her duties. She feels no one understands her and views herself superior to all those who surround her, including her sons and daughters-in-law, whose marriages she feels compelled to arrange for their own good. She even arranges for her husband to take a concubine, hoping to gain her own freedom. Eventually she comes to discover that none of her family members is happy. Then a renegade foreign missionary enters her life and lights up her soul. Using a liberal approach to religion, he wins her admiration where another dogmatic Catholic nun fails, shining a whole new light on the meaning of love and freedom. She begins to understand that to love is to not judge others harshly and that self-fulfillment is the key to setting one’s soul free, and that this applies to all man-woman relationships. Shortly thereafter, something vile happens to him, which devastates her, and she realizes that she is in love with this foreigner, and that the single most important thing that she always lacked is the capacity to love. With that epiphany, she sets out to follow the foreigner’s selfless example and to remedy her past mistakes. I’m giving this novel 4.5 stars, rounded up.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jesse

    I was surprised to get so drawn into Pearl S. Buck's "Pavilion of Women." Buck has a subtle writing style that transcends time, making you forget that the book was written in 1946. Though I was intrigued to read it, given that Buck received both a Nobel and Pulitzer prize. "Pavilion of Women" follows a mother and wife "Madame Wu" who, on her 40th birthday, chooses to provide her husband with a concubine instead of ever allowing him back into her physical world. There is absolutely nothing bad I c I was surprised to get so drawn into Pearl S. Buck's "Pavilion of Women." Buck has a subtle writing style that transcends time, making you forget that the book was written in 1946. Though I was intrigued to read it, given that Buck received both a Nobel and Pulitzer prize. "Pavilion of Women" follows a mother and wife "Madame Wu" who, on her 40th birthday, chooses to provide her husband with a concubine instead of ever allowing him back into her physical world. There is absolutely nothing bad I can say about the first 3/4 of this book. It is incredibly well-written and even the unlikeable characters are given a certain charm that draws you into their lives and circumstances. But Buck's own fascination with religion (her father was a missionary), mixed with her only daughter's predicament of being born disabled weighed too heavy on this book. Unless you are fully prepared to be preached to, do not step into "Pavilion of Women" lightly. Madame Wu's entire character development comes to a crux during her friendship with a Christian monk whose Christian charity not only changes her life but changes the entire exposition of the novel. Suddenly the relationships between men and women which pepper the book with realism and humour are laid out as relationships of the flesh that have no comparison to one's relationship with God. If you are an atheist, a teeter-totterer or just plainly not Christian, it can be a little hard to take. But with a little bit of a guard up, Buck's story has something to offer all of those groups, without really risking a fear of coversion to Buck's side. So many insights into life are offered that it is easy to see why Buck deserved the honour of the Pulitzer.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ivana Books Are Magic

    This book has touched me so deeply, that I cannot help feeling a strike of destiny in the way it came into my hands. I started reading it, blissfully unaware of both the plot and what it might be like. Pavilion of Women has proven to be such a beautiful reading surprise. I must have read it in one breath, or at least, that is what reading it felt like. Once I started it, I just couldn't stop reading. I cannot express how much I enjoyed this novel. It is a truly remarkable portrayal of a woman's This book has touched me so deeply, that I cannot help feeling a strike of destiny in the way it came into my hands. I started reading it, blissfully unaware of both the plot and what it might be like. Pavilion of Women has proven to be such a beautiful reading surprise. I must have read it in one breath, or at least, that is what reading it felt like. Once I started it, I just couldn't stop reading. I cannot express how much I enjoyed this novel. It is a truly remarkable portrayal of a woman's soul. It's pure magic. Pavilion of Women has even managed to comfort me during a difficult hospital stay and I'm sure it's a novel I'll never forget. But enough with the praises for now. Let's talk a bit about what this novel is about and what it is like. The novel's protagonist is Madam Wu. The subtitle of this novel is : A Novel of Life in the Women's Quarters, and that is what this book it about. The terms 'women's quarters' sounds historical, and indeed this book is set in the past, in a remote part of China before the outbreak of WW2. Besides following the life of Madam Wu, the protagonist, this novel also follows the life stories of other women who are close to her. The introduction of the novel describes both Madam Wu and her family dynamics. As she turns 40, Madam Wu longs for some 'me time'. On the surface, Madam Wu has everything she might want. A husband and children who love her, servants who worship her, a respected place in a community. Everyone seems to either admire or respect her. Madam Wu's family is the wealthiest in the area, and it seems to be a happy family. Madam Wu's sons are either married or too young to be married, but either way they seem respectable of their parents. One of Madam Wu's sons has married a girl older than himself, which poses technical problems in the selection of the daughter-in-law who will be in charge of the household once she turns 40, but there are no major problems, or so it seems. Madam Wu, however, has quite a surprise prepared for everyone. She has decided to find her husband a concubine. When Madam Wu discloses this to her servant and later on friend, she received a hocked reaction. It is known to everyone that Madam Wu is beloved by her husband. What could possibly drive her to such a decision. Now, at the time book happens, concubines are still present but they are started to be seen as something better left to the past times. The historical reasons for concubines are interesting. As Madam Wu rationally explains, a concubine ensures that a man can have more children without endangering his wife. Having a baby after you turn 4o was a dangerous feet in those days. Many women have lost their lives that way. Some of them, or so it seems, have been relieved when a concubine came to take their place. However, a concubine was always known to present a risk. Why risk disrupting a happy family? Why bring a stranger into a well functioning family? Madam Wu stubbornly clings to her decision, confident that she will able to make her husband see the benefit of her decision. Slowly, we learn more about their marriage. Mister Wu protests but finally agrees with this wife's decision. Madam Wu is known to be a flawless, capable and intelligent lady. Even in the traditional society of the time, Madam Wu commands respect. Moreover, in her home, this lady's word is the law. Madam Wu spends her first night alone. She has chosen a room close to her mother in law, on the pretext of being able to better take care of her, but in reality because it's the most private place in the house. Madam Wu speaks of tradition and fulfilling her role of a good wife, but it seems that what she is really interested in is independence. As I said, Madam Wu, needs some 'me time', she wakes up in the morning feeling happy, knowing that nobody will ever disturb her sleep by reaching up to her. It seems Madam Wu has planned everything in detail, she will select a suitable concubine, a simple village girl who will be grateful to be a part of such a rich and respected family. Her sons and daughters in laws are appealed by her decision. One of her son's wives tells Madam Wu how she had even protested and marched against the concubine tradition and urges her to give up on her decision. Madam Wu chooses an orphaned village girl, feels a bit guilty by the fact that she had bought her like a cattle, but ensures herself she is actually doing her a favour. For a while, it seems that things might run smoothly. Madam Wu concentrates on marrying another soon to her neighbour's daughter. Madam Wu's intelligence and sophistication allow her to be one step of a time. As she manages to secure more time for herself, Madam Wu reflects on her life. Her father in law loved and respected her, but warned her not to read certain books while she is young. Her late father in law saw that an intelligence of her sort might make her unhappy, and urged her to have patience with his son, who was spoiled by his mother and ended up being less intelligent that Madam Wu. Madam Wu has lived her life fulfilling her duty, but now she wants the freedom to be by herself, to devote herself to learning, to have time to read those book. What she doesn't realize is that she cannot be free while others around her are not free. In other words, Madam Wu will have to pay a price for buying that poor village orphan girl who now turns to be unhappy with the new arrangement and begs to leave. One after another, family crisis take place, and Madam Wu realizes that for all her sophisticated and intelligence, she has much to learn. Madam Wu will not be able to help her family until the managed to help herself, and vice versa. “You are free when you gain back yourself,” Madame Wu said. “You can be as free within these walls as you could be in the whole world. And how could you be free if, however far you wander, you still carry inside yourself the constant thought of him? See where you belong in the stream of life. Let it flow through you, cool and strong. Do not dam it with your two hands, lest he break the dam and so escape you. Let him go free, and you will be free.”

  5. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    My thoughts on Pavilion of Women: At the beginning I found myself strangely interested in this book; its really not my cup of tea. I was shocked, and I was thinking to myself, “is this really going to be a four star book?” I had trouble putting the book down. Then, at about three-quarters through I realized that what I liked about the book didn’t really have anything in particular to do with the book itself or the author. I liked all the parts about the Chinese culture, everything was surprising t My thoughts on Pavilion of Women: At the beginning I found myself strangely interested in this book; its really not my cup of tea. I was shocked, and I was thinking to myself, “is this really going to be a four star book?” I had trouble putting the book down. Then, at about three-quarters through I realized that what I liked about the book didn’t really have anything in particular to do with the book itself or the author. I liked all the parts about the Chinese culture, everything was surprising to me as I am really not very well acquainted with anything “Eastern”. To be honest, I’m not that very well acquainted with anything modern either, I kind of focus on the Romans up to the Medieval Age so everything else is just a little surprising and interesting. So I enjoyed hearing about the silk robes, and the family celebrations, and the sense of honor, and while these things were well told by the author, they were what kept me reading not the characters, the philosophical discourse, or the plot, which was quaint but not really enough for me. The end was very bland, drawn out, and I was unresponsive to it. The philosophical ideas of the author as related by the characters had started out as insightful and interesting, but by the end their placement in the narrative seemed forced and jarring. So in the end, there was nothing about this particular book that was special, that I don’t feel I could have gotten anywhere else- so three stars. I would definitely read more by the author though, I think I could really enjoy some of the books that she is more well known for, such as the one that she received the Nobel Prize for.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    This is a story is set in pre-Communist China, just before and during the Second World War. It is centred around a wealthy old-fashioned family called Wu, and explores the psychology of the different relationships between members of this extended family. The central figure of the story is Madame Wu -intelligent, cool, self-possessed and ordered, she runs a large household of over 60 people, with great efficiency – but always in a very understated and subtle way. She also oversees the administrat This is a story is set in pre-Communist China, just before and during the Second World War. It is centred around a wealthy old-fashioned family called Wu, and explores the psychology of the different relationships between members of this extended family. The central figure of the story is Madame Wu -intelligent, cool, self-possessed and ordered, she runs a large household of over 60 people, with great efficiency – but always in a very understated and subtle way. She also oversees the administration of her husband’s land and tenants. On her 40th birthday she announces her withdrawal from the marriage bed, and her decision to get her husband a concubine. For years she has given much of her time to family affairs; but in this and in other respects she now wants more time to herself. This causes a furore, with her husband and with other members of the household, but nevertheless she goes ahead with her plan. She introduces a young country girl (given the title and status of Second Lady), into the household.... and as time goes by people adjust to her decision. But her plans for a life of quiet retreat are disrupted. Into her life comes Father André, a foreign tutor to one of her sons. He is deeply spiritual, but not in traditional Christian way, and they share many philosophical conversations. (view spoiler)[ Father André shows Madame Wu the selfishness of the ways in which she has run her household. Particularly in the ways she has manipulated people. Then tragedy strikes – Father André is mugged and dies. Madame Wu has a revelation, and realises that she had fallen in love with him, and that this is the first person she has ever really loved. It transforms her whole way of thinking and being, and she adopts his philosophies as her own. (hide spoiler)] In the latter part of the book we see Madame Wu’s outlook change, and we see the effect this has on her family. This book is written in quite a simple and artless fashion, and so many of its descriptions are pretty.... It made me think of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado – and the song Three Little Maids From School Are We... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXWkIZ... Everything in Madame Wu’s world is so perfect, and runs so smoothly, and with such charm. Even the negative incidents are treated with a cool acceptance. Then I checked out Wikipedia for a biog of the author..... Pearl S Buck was born in 1892 to two Southern Presbyterian missionary parents. When she was a baby her parents left America and went to China. She was raised bilingual – speaking both English and classical Chinese. In 1911 she returned to America to go to college in Virginia. Afterwards, like her parents, she served as a Presbyterian missionary, but her views became controversial, and she resigned. In 1914 she returned to China, and got married to an English (American?) agricultural economist. From 1920-1933 she taught English Literature at Nanking University, but eventually, in 1934, they had to flee China after turbulence with nationalist troops, Communist forces and assorted warlord uprisings. She and her husband returned to America. Shortly afterwards they divorced, and she remarried. Given the nature of Pearl Buck – her great experience of Chinese culture, her great experience of religious arguments of the time and darn it - even her experience of love, this book takes on a whole new dimension for me. It isn’t the fantasy world of the Mikado – rather it is the view of life in a Chinese household seen through the eyes of someone who has had a fascinating and idiosyncratic life. I think she really writes from the heart and from her experiences. I thought this book was very unusual. I enjoyed it enormously, and greatly look forward to reading more by this author.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Terry

    Rarely have I read a book that has made me think so deeply about relationships and ideas that I take for granted every day. Andre, the foreign priest, is surprised that Madame Wu has learned so much about the world within her small sphere of daily life, the high walls of her compound. Andre has seen much of the world and speaks many languages, but Madame Wu keeps up with his intellect and ideas, and this is surprising to him. She explains that everything that happens out in the world happens in Rarely have I read a book that has made me think so deeply about relationships and ideas that I take for granted every day. Andre, the foreign priest, is surprised that Madame Wu has learned so much about the world within her small sphere of daily life, the high walls of her compound. Andre has seen much of the world and speaks many languages, but Madame Wu keeps up with his intellect and ideas, and this is surprising to him. She explains that everything that happens out in the world happens in the walls of the compound: birth, conflict, joy, sorrow, marriage, death. No sphere is so small that a person cannot learn all that the human experience has to offer. Pearl Buck allows her characters to be dynamic, and this is one of the things that makes her writing so satisfying. Madame Wu isn't terribly likable at the beginning of the story. Although she's admirable, she doesn't seem quite real because she's so cold and calculating. Buck allows her protagonist to mess up bigtime, which can be tough for an author to do. And because Madame Wu wields so much power, she can really mess things up for other people. So when she begins to change and her steely exterior starts to crumble, it's mesmerizing to see what happens. This is what we all hope for: the ability to overcome weaknesses (even when our weaknesses appear to be strengths) and have the wisdom and courage to try and right the wrongs of our former ignorance. Madame Wu has always respected learning, but she has felt that some learning is dangerous and that it will ultimately ruin the family life she has so carefully orchestrated for her husband and children. The world of new ideas and learning, introduced to the Wu household through a foreigner, impacts everyone, whether they embrace the new ideas or not, and one of the sons really catches on to the possibilities for common people when they have the skills and power to read and write. The subtitle on my library copy says, "A novel of traditional China," but it's really, "a novel of human wisdom," for any and all.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Stacy

    >spoiler alert

  9. 4 out of 5

    Petra

    A warm and interesting story. Madame Wu is a thoughtful, interesting woman and she runs her household with care and ability. I liked the insight into upper Chinese culture and lifestyle. Madame Wu takes an unconventional path when on her 40th birthday she reclaims her life and walks away from her marriage bed, freeing herself from her wifely duties and intending to spend the rest of her days in study and contemplation. The teachings of Father Andre are simple and respectful of all life forms and A warm and interesting story. Madame Wu is a thoughtful, interesting woman and she runs her household with care and ability. I liked the insight into upper Chinese culture and lifestyle. Madame Wu takes an unconventional path when on her 40th birthday she reclaims her life and walks away from her marriage bed, freeing herself from her wifely duties and intending to spend the rest of her days in study and contemplation. The teachings of Father Andre are simple and respectful of all life forms and all human beings, regardless of station. When Madame Wu becomes spiritually motivated, I found the story slowed down but still remained enjoyable. However, the story became a bit preachy as well. Love for self, family, life, community is important; it does make Life worthwhile; yet I feel that Pearl Buck didn't convey the greatness of this life path well at times. I have to ponder this a bit more. I enjoyed this book but the second half didn't resonate as much with me as the first. Well told but I prefer The Good Earth.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Michele

    Just had the best experience with this book. Pearl S. Buck is a wonder and she deserves every award she ever got and more. I was suprised how quickly I got to know Madam Wu and I really felt like I knew her; like we could sit down and talk for hours. Brilliantly done and written with superb style and grace. I liked it tons better than "The Good Earth." Loved this thought about Adam and Eve: Because he knew that her mind and her heart were fixed not upon the man, but upon the pursuance of life." h Just had the best experience with this book. Pearl S. Buck is a wonder and she deserves every award she ever got and more. I was suprised how quickly I got to know Madam Wu and I really felt like I knew her; like we could sit down and talk for hours. Brilliantly done and written with superb style and grace. I liked it tons better than "The Good Earth." Loved this thought about Adam and Eve: Because he knew that her mind and her heart were fixed not upon the man, but upon the pursuance of life." he had replied. "the man's mind and heart were fixed upon himself. He was happy enough, dreaming that he possessed the woman and the garden. Why should he be tempted further? He had all. But the woman could always be tempted by the thought of a better garden, a larger space, more to possess, because she knew that out of her body would come many more beings, and for them she plotted and planned. The woman thought not of herself, but of the many whom she would create. For their sake she was tempted. For their sake she will always be tempted.248 Only the small and the mean retaliate for pain.264 I have learned that there is a debt due to every soul, and this is the right to its own true happiness. 285 But Mother, To know how to read is to light a lamp in the mind, to release the soul from prison, to open a gate to the universe. 292 (Best quote ever!) To lie is a sin, Brother Andre had taught him simply, but it is not a sin against God so much as a sin against yourself. Anything built upon the foundation of a lie crumbles. The lie deceives no one so much as the one who tells it.294

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Pearl Buck's writings about China take me back to a place I visited long ago. Her stories and characters are absolutely engrossing; this was no exception. Sometimes a book is full of quotes that I can't resist noting, and this was one of those: "... Madame Wu had long ago learned that the affairs of a great household must be managed one by one and in order.... She had tried to [do sometihng else]... and Heaven had prevented it. The time was not ripe, therefore. And as she had learned to do, while Pearl Buck's writings about China take me back to a place I visited long ago. Her stories and characters are absolutely engrossing; this was no exception. Sometimes a book is full of quotes that I can't resist noting, and this was one of those: "... Madame Wu had long ago learned that the affairs of a great household must be managed one by one and in order.... She had tried to [do sometihng else]... and Heaven had prevented it. The time was not ripe, therefore. And as she had learned to do, while she pondered on large things, she acted on small ones." "You must learn to take from a person that which is his best and ignore all else." "Long ago she had learned that to seem to yeild is always stronger than to show resistance, and to acknowledge a fault quickly is always to show an invincible rectitude." "The sun belongs to uas all ... and we reflect its light, one to another, east and west, rising and setting." "... Listlessness must be met with firmness."

  12. 4 out of 5

    Aubrey

    I absolutely adore Pearl S. Buck's writing. That being said, I shall have to go through her entire bibliography in order to satisfy myself. Her prose is a warm bath, complete with the small insights and revelations that often come to one during luxurious respite. 'Pavilion of Women' presents a woman with unparalleled logic and self-control, but who also is ignorant of how coldly she views the rest of the world, those who lack her intelligence and strength of will. Through the course of the novel I absolutely adore Pearl S. Buck's writing. That being said, I shall have to go through her entire bibliography in order to satisfy myself. Her prose is a warm bath, complete with the small insights and revelations that often come to one during luxurious respite. 'Pavilion of Women' presents a woman with unparalleled logic and self-control, but who also is ignorant of how coldly she views the rest of the world, those who lack her intelligence and strength of will. Through the course of the novel, she recognizes the mistakes she has made in withdrawing herself from the world and expecting the world to properly continue, and with the help from a foreign priest and a previously foreign emotion, she discovers how to continue existing. I feel I have a soft spot for this book, as I share many of the character traits of the protagonist (albeit not nearly as omniscient), and I love the book for being able to relate to many of its wise remarks on life in general.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ana

    I have read some of Pearl Buck novels when I was much younger, but I don't remember them being so... exhausting? tedious? annoying? I think the fault is with the main character, who is pretty much the most unrelatable character I have ever come across. She is so self-righteous, so full of herself, so narcissistic, so judgmental, so controlling, I couldn't stop cringing with annoyance. The greatest value of this book lies in the depiction of life in a traditional Chinese household, but you can ge I have read some of Pearl Buck novels when I was much younger, but I don't remember them being so... exhausting? tedious? annoying? I think the fault is with the main character, who is pretty much the most unrelatable character I have ever come across. She is so self-righteous, so full of herself, so narcissistic, so judgmental, so controlling, I couldn't stop cringing with annoyance. The greatest value of this book lies in the depiction of life in a traditional Chinese household, but you can get that from an anthropology/history school book without Madame Wu irritating you beyond reason.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Tamara Agha-Jaffar

    Pavilion of Women by the 1938 Nobel Prize winner Pearl S. Buck takes place in 1940s China. The central character is Madame Wu, the elegant, competent, and beautiful mistress of the large Wu household. Married and the mother of four sons, Madame Wu is judicious, diplomatic, serene, loved, and respected by all. The novel opens on her fortieth birthday, a momentous occasion for her. She calmly announces her decision to end physical intimacy with her husband and choose a second wife for him to satis Pavilion of Women by the 1938 Nobel Prize winner Pearl S. Buck takes place in 1940s China. The central character is Madame Wu, the elegant, competent, and beautiful mistress of the large Wu household. Married and the mother of four sons, Madame Wu is judicious, diplomatic, serene, loved, and respected by all. The novel opens on her fortieth birthday, a momentous occasion for her. She calmly announces her decision to end physical intimacy with her husband and choose a second wife for him to satisfy his carnal needs. The announcement is greeted with shock and plummets the household in turmoil. Her husband is mystified by her decision and initially refuses her offer. But Madame Wu is adamant. With the help of the local marriage broker, she selects a young girl who meets her requirements and cements the deal. She then proceeds to arrange a marriage for her third son. She treats people as if they are pieces on a chess board, moving them at will. Her goal is to settle the affairs of her family so she can be relieved of responsibilities toward others and experience the freedom she has longed for throughout her marriage. But her plans go awry and her household falls apart. Pearl Buck’s portrayal of Madame Wu is particularly effective. She depicts her as unflappable, elegant, beautiful, intelligent, and, above all, determined to fulfill her duty. But in spite of her serene exterior, Madame Wu is deeply unhappy and lonely. Although she has all the comforts of life, she has never connected with another human being until she meets Father André, her son’s tutor who happens to be a European renegade priest and to whom she bares her soul. He accuses her of selfishness, of badly misjudging male/female relations, and of treating young women as if they were nothing more than breeding vessels to be bought and sold. Falling in love for the first time in her life, Madame Wu experiences an epiphany and proceeds to rectify her past mistakes. She follows the example set by Father André by showing greater tolerance for human weakness and supporting the pursuit of freedom by others. The tension between a traditional life-style and the influx of Western ideas and attitudes is brought to the forefront by the characters, their conflicts, and the choices they make. The characters are realistically portrayed and well-developed. The first half of the novel depicts life in the Wu household with great sensitivity and with an eye for detail that captures the intricacies of manners, behaviors, and traditions of Chinese upper-class society. The second half of the novel becomes more introspective, focusing on Madame Wu’s philosophical conversations with Father André as he exposes her to Western ideas. This section loses much of the vibrancy of the earlier section. The philosophical pronouncements seemed contrived. And the gradual intensification of Madame Wu’s feelings toward Father André and her constant self-examination tend to drag the narrative down. In spite of these few shortcomings, the writing is excellent and immerses the reader in upper-class life in China of the 1940s. Recommended. You can see more of my book reviews at www.tamaraaghajaffar.com

  15. 5 out of 5

    Calzean

    Pre-Communist China but the times are changing. Madame Wu leads a traditional life running her family, extended family, various adopted/orphans and a cast of servants. The author recreates the traditions with great depth, clarity and without judgement. But the book is also about the various relationships between Madame Wu and her husband, their children, in-laws, friends and servants. The book is also about how people change as they age and hopefully, like Madame Wu, use their experiences wisely Pre-Communist China but the times are changing. Madame Wu leads a traditional life running her family, extended family, various adopted/orphans and a cast of servants. The author recreates the traditions with great depth, clarity and without judgement. But the book is also about the various relationships between Madame Wu and her husband, their children, in-laws, friends and servants. The book is also about how people change as they age and hopefully, like Madame Wu, use their experiences wisely and accept that change can be okay. A well crafted novel of a time gone by.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kathryn

    It truly is a marvel when someone recommends a book (my sister in this case) and it turns out to be one of my all time favorites. Madam Wu at 40 has decided to find her husband a concubine and retire from married life. The repercussions from that decision fill each page with sorrow and insight. The Chinese customs from the 1940s are fascinating. The story explains those customs and as the book moved along I saw Madam Wu and many of those tried and true customs soften and in some cases change. Th It truly is a marvel when someone recommends a book (my sister in this case) and it turns out to be one of my all time favorites. Madam Wu at 40 has decided to find her husband a concubine and retire from married life. The repercussions from that decision fill each page with sorrow and insight. The Chinese customs from the 1940s are fascinating. The story explains those customs and as the book moved along I saw Madam Wu and many of those tried and true customs soften and in some cases change. This is an excellant story.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    Initially I want to say that I received this book through the Goodreads First Reads program. This book has added to an area that I know needs strengthening for me, knowledge of the life of Chinese people. It is set in mid 20th century, prior to WWII, a time of change around the world and a time of growing change in China. It is the story of cultural and personal transition. Pearl Buck writes from her knowledge of the country and her knowledge as a woman. We see all that happens through the eyes of Initially I want to say that I received this book through the Goodreads First Reads program. This book has added to an area that I know needs strengthening for me, knowledge of the life of Chinese people. It is set in mid 20th century, prior to WWII, a time of change around the world and a time of growing change in China. It is the story of cultural and personal transition. Pearl Buck writes from her knowledge of the country and her knowledge as a woman. We see all that happens through the eyes of Madame Wu, the Lady of the Wu household who manages everything that happens and sees that all runs well, including her children's marriages. At the age of 40, she has decided on a new course of personal freedom that will shake up the entire household in ways she never intended and ultimately lead her to a level of self-hood she had never sought....she never knew it existed. At first I found myself put off by some of the formality of the lifestyle which became part of the writing. Then I found that, as Madame Wu began to step in new directions, so too did the novel and the writing. I became more excited in my reading. There are philosophical discussions and talk of how marriages can possibly last. This story takes place in a wealthy household that can afford to have such concerns. It is, I believe, a woman's book, dealing so much with woman's place in the world. It is dealing with China in the 1940s and some of the truths spoken here seem dated. However, some are timeless. Recommended for all who would like to visit another world, taken there by someone who grew up there and loved the people.

  18. 5 out of 5

    CS

    I give Pavilion of Women five stars not for it's execution (though I don't think it's written poorly) but for it's insight and depth and humanity and love. If someone were to ask me, "what sort of person should I be?" I would advise them to read Pavilion of Women, to learn from Madame Wu's learning, and to take to heart Brother Andre's wisdom. Meditate on the change in Madame Wu, on her successes and setbacks, and see the way in which she came to live her life. All that Brother Andre says, ponder I give Pavilion of Women five stars not for it's execution (though I don't think it's written poorly) but for it's insight and depth and humanity and love. If someone were to ask me, "what sort of person should I be?" I would advise them to read Pavilion of Women, to learn from Madame Wu's learning, and to take to heart Brother Andre's wisdom. Meditate on the change in Madame Wu, on her successes and setbacks, and see the way in which she came to live her life. All that Brother Andre says, ponder. I am often shocked that this book of Buck's is not more mentioned. I wrote this review after a re-read. I wondered if the book would still speak to me many years later. And it did. It just said different things this time. Or, at least, different things in the text had relevance to me. Also - this book still tells a good story - even if you aren't in it for the philosophy. No need to wade through a boring or stiff allegory to get to the meat of it. Please enjoy! This is an excellent work!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Isabelle

    When I was a teenager, Pearl S Buck was all the rage with the other teenage girls in my life -- sister, cousins, friends -- but I was not a fan... I preferred torturing myself with Dostoevsky! So, imagine my surprise when, a few dozen pages into "Pavilion of Women" which I had started to read by default when nothing else was available, I found myself not only liking Madame Wu but also relating to her and also admiring her for conquering the daunting odds of a purely domestic life in order to read When I was a teenager, Pearl S Buck was all the rage with the other teenage girls in my life -- sister, cousins, friends -- but I was not a fan... I preferred torturing myself with Dostoevsky! So, imagine my surprise when, a few dozen pages into "Pavilion of Women" which I had started to read by default when nothing else was available, I found myself not only liking Madame Wu but also relating to her and also admiring her for conquering the daunting odds of a purely domestic life in order to read, reflect and learn. And then enters the development of "her soul" via the advent of a monk who will inspire her with a love that can only be sublimated into true service of others. Unfortunately, this is the point when I disconnected from the book and remembered why I used to prefer torturing myself with Dostoevsky. Wondering whether I should reread "Crime and Punishment" or " The Idiot"...

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mia

    This fascinating book is an exploration of the feminine self-actualization within a centuries-old, tradition-bound society. The author touches upon a number of themes: the conflict between personal fulfillment and communal responsibility; the role of women in the stratified Chinese society of the time; and finally, the nature of love, romantic and universal.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Natasa

     I enjoyed this book. It gives a fascinating view of Chinese life before the revolution and a good insight into their way of thinking, customs and attitudes. The book provided great material for discussion on topics like the role of sex in marriage relationships between men and women, parental control of children and the roles of women traditionally and today.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    What a pleasant surprise to become thoroughly engrossed in a book, of which I had few expectations. Wasn't a big fan of "The Good Earth", so opened this with a little trepidation. Set in China, primarily in the 1930s, there is a lot in this small novel: the nature of relationships between men & women, family dynamics, finding one's true self and happiness, cultural traditions versus change. It touched my soul just as Madame Wu's soul was "found" and truly opened to others. Madame Wu, from an affl What a pleasant surprise to become thoroughly engrossed in a book, of which I had few expectations. Wasn't a big fan of "The Good Earth", so opened this with a little trepidation. Set in China, primarily in the 1930s, there is a lot in this small novel: the nature of relationships between men & women, family dynamics, finding one's true self and happiness, cultural traditions versus change. It touched my soul just as Madame Wu's soul was "found" and truly opened to others. Madame Wu, from an affluent Chinese family, rarely ventures from the walls of their home, more like a compound, as there are about 60 people between family & servants living there. She is in control and although engaged with all that goes on there, in fact appears to be the one who orchestrates all, she is emotionally aloof. She makes a bold decision at the age of 40. No longer wanting to chance a pregnancy, she decides to withdraw to her own rooms and live a more solitary life. This action as well as the introduction of a foreign teacher, Brother Andre, into the mix initiates a cascade of reactions and changes within the household and beyond. More profoundly is the change that comes from within for Madame Wu. Madame Wu's character is peeled away for the reader layer by layer, like the proverbial onion throughout the story, it makes one reflect on the nature of one's own relationships with others & the world around you.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    I keep thinking that Pearl Buck novels can't get any better, but then they do! The main character, Madame Wu, decides on her 40th birthday to get a concubine for her husband. (I'm not giving away the plot here -- you find this out on the first page.) She has her own reasons for this -- fear of high-risk pregnancy at her age, a desire to live for herself and not her husband, etc., but her family and community are aghast. This is a story about relationships between women and men, independence and i I keep thinking that Pearl Buck novels can't get any better, but then they do! The main character, Madame Wu, decides on her 40th birthday to get a concubine for her husband. (I'm not giving away the plot here -- you find this out on the first page.) She has her own reasons for this -- fear of high-risk pregnancy at her age, a desire to live for herself and not her husband, etc., but her family and community are aghast. This is a story about relationships between women and men, independence and interdependence, and religion/philosophy. I'm not sure how Buck crams all of that into one gorgeous novel, but she does. Her exploration of a woman's role, as well as all the freedoms and constrictions that it offers, completely captivated me. If you read "The Good Earth" and were sad about the fact that the wife's inner life was completely ignored, then I think you'll find that Buck redeems herself here. She has some incredible passages in this novel exploring Madame Wu's ideas about why men and women approach relationships differently, ideas that relate to Adam, Eve, childbearing, and the resulting cultural conditioning. I found myself rereading them again and again, completely astounded at how eerily accurate it seemed. I found the character of the foreign missionary man a bit annoying, but he grows on me by the end. All in all, another amazing read! Thanks Pearl!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Bbrown

    When I read The Good Earth for class many years ago I enjoyed it, but until very recently it never occurred to me to read anything else by Pearl S. Buck. The Good Earth, is, after all, her most popular book by far, winning Buck the Pulitzer Prize and contributing to her Nobel Prize win more than any of her other novels (most of them, including this one, she wrote after she was a laureate). I didn’t even know the name of any of Buck’s other works, so I was surprised to find that she had been a ra When I read The Good Earth for class many years ago I enjoyed it, but until very recently it never occurred to me to read anything else by Pearl S. Buck. The Good Earth, is, after all, her most popular book by far, winning Buck the Pulitzer Prize and contributing to her Nobel Prize win more than any of her other novels (most of them, including this one, she wrote after she was a laureate). I didn’t even know the name of any of Buck’s other works, so I was surprised to find that she had been a rather prolific writer, with dozens of novels to her name. Pavilion of Women is, at least per goodreads, her second most popular novel, with only a small fraction the number of readers as The Good Earth, but it has a lot in common with that work: it is a novel focused on actions, with a distinctive writing style, and it has a similar setting. However, the scope of Pavilion of Women is narrower, painting the portrait of a family matriarch instead of depicting the fall of one great house and the rise of another. Like The Good Earth, Pavilion of Women is almost entirely focused on the actions of its characters, and the progression of the plot. This, for whatever reason, is a rarity among the books I typically read. Only occasionally does Buck have a passage of descriptive imagery, touching on the garden, the countryside, or the weather, and even then that passage is usually only a few lines. Likewise, Buck is not concerned with “world building,” in the sense of explaining how the house of Wu or the rural Chinese town functions. As a reader you certainly become familiar with both the house and the town, but largely through the characters and what actions they perform. Buck never delves into how many courts the house of Wu has, or its layout, the fact that it contains a temple is only introduced over two-thirds into the book, but it’s clear that these specifics are not something Buck considers essential to the story being told. Buck’s prose is particularly noteworthy. It’s a distinctive blend of straightforward depictions of actions, heavy on dialogue or internal monologue, with some distinguishing element occasionally added, creating a particular type of minimalism that is easy to read, and that gradually introduces you to the characters and setting without having to dedicate long sections of the book to such information specifically. In contrast, Buck will with more frequency than many authors drop in isolated lines that are an almost poetic take on the subject being discussed. “To bear him many children was her sole desire. She was his instrument for immortality.” I feel that this style has influenced American depictions of China, and the type of dialogue typically given to Chinese characters. Buck is, after all, likely still the most read author on the topic of China in America, as she has been from the 1930s. Because the actions are so central to Pavilion of Women, it’s hard to discuss the book without going into the events depicted—so be warned that the rest of the review will contain general spoilers. The book can be divided almost exactly into thirds: the third before Brother André, the third with Brother André, and the third after Brother André. Though these sections are defined by the presence or absence of Brother André, this book is primarily the portrait of Madame Wu, the matriarch of the great house of Wu. The book opens with Madame Wu’s implementing a decision she made long ago to retire from the physical duties of being a wife and to bring in a concubine as a second wife for her husband, a decision she adheres to even though her friends and family uniformly consider it a bad idea. But Madame Wu’s competence is such that everyone defers to her decision. In this first third, the character of Madame Wu concerned me, as she skirted the line of being a too-perfect character without any flaws (see her preternatural ability to harvest silk worms, ability to calm infants with her presence, deftly manipulate everyone she comes into contact with, she seems good at everything). Luckily, the second third addresses my concern. Madame Wu’s perfection is juxtaposed with her initial lack of passion, as she calculates her every action. The introduction of Brother André, who sees through Madame Wu the way she sees through others, and who finally begins spurring emotions in her, is a welcome jolt to the story after the largely boring first third. Through Brother André, Madame Wu realizes (and we learn) that, instead of wanting to retire as a wife and bring in a concubine out of her continued desire to be a perfect wife and matriarch, Madame Wu did it out of a selfish desire to free herself from her burdens. This section chips away at the mask of perfection presented by the first part, revealing that the house of Wu is not the tranquil place it was originally depicted as being, and that many of Madame Wu’s machinations have failed or backfired. In discussing and learning from Brother André, Madame Wu begins to develop as a character, realizing her flaws but also growing toward her potential of actually being the benevolent matriarch she was thought to be (and convinced herself she was) in the first part of the story. In the last third, Madame Wu’s promise is finally fulfilled, though the catalyst for this is unexpected. Madame Wu goes about helping others and correcting past mistakes where she can, and finally earns her reputation. This is not to say that the house of Wu is transformed into a paradise on earth, as, throughout all the parts of this book the rest of the Wu family has continued to develop, with some family members growing in a positive way and others the opposite. Madame Wu is no supernatural force, so there remain some members that live tragic lives despite her presence. To me this final section highlighted the main flaw of the Pavilion of Women, which is that Pearl S. Buck is not able to deliver the enlightenment her characters promise. The story presents two characters, Madame Wu and Brother André, who each come to a greater understanding of life, the universe, and their role in it. But when Buck has those characters share their insight, it is not the revelation it is depicted as being. When Madame Wu gives advice to her daughter-in-law, explaining that it is not her duty to her husband to have children, but rather their shared duty to mankind, it is different advice than Madame Wu would have given in the first part of the book, but not better advice. The Pavilion of Women has no great truths to reveal, even if its characters are depicted as revealing great truths and other characters act as though they have received great truths. This lack of revelation is a serious flaw because it undercuts not only the plot of Pavilion of Women, but also its main characters, as they are not believably what Buck purports them to be. Since, as already described, the prose is dedicated to depicting events, there is not enough beauty in the language of the Pavilion of Women to elevate the book. Likewise, there is no grander, more symbolic story of the rise and fall of a great house like that depicted in The Good Earth, which could still work even if its characters fell short. There is, in short, not much to fall back on once the development of Madame Wu ends unsatisfyingly, which is what transforms a minor complaint into a more sizeable one. The Pavilion of Women is a period piece, and I have a fondness for period pieces (arising out of my love for settings). So, just as I return to Zola and Austen, I may read more works by Buck, to again visit pre-revolution China. But if I do, I’ll be hoping for something more akin to The Good Earth (perhaps I’ll try its sequel) rather than The Pavilion of Women, which in my opinion didn’t quite work because Buck failed to clear the bar she set for herself.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Orsolya

    Historical fiction, Chinese aristocracy, personal and female growth, love lessons… these are all terms to describe “Pavilion of Women” by Pearl Buck. However, don’t think that is all there is to the novel. The depth will surprise you… Pearl Buck’s “Pavilion of Women” instantly immerses the reader into the depth of its plot and character of Madame Wu. Rather than feeling like you need to be introduced properly; somehow there is an old familiarity, like a friend re-visited with an instant camarader Historical fiction, Chinese aristocracy, personal and female growth, love lessons… these are all terms to describe “Pavilion of Women” by Pearl Buck. However, don’t think that is all there is to the novel. The depth will surprise you… Pearl Buck’s “Pavilion of Women” instantly immerses the reader into the depth of its plot and character of Madame Wu. Rather than feeling like you need to be introduced properly; somehow there is an old familiarity, like a friend re-visited with an instant camaraderie. Yet, despite this recognition, Madame Wu’s character is multi-faceted and features intense layers which are softly peeled away like the skin of an onion. Although presented in a simple way, her actions speak louder than words and the reader will both love and hate Madame Wu. Madame Wu is complex: so kind and yet so manipulative and therefore she evokes various emotions, understanding, and reactions from the reader. This depth also transcends to the story/plot itself, which lacks bells and whistles (although there are some twists) and is predominately a character study. At the same time, “Pavilion of Women” is very gripping, compelling, and urges pages to be turned. Buck’s work is certainly one of those novels where you can lose track of time. Buck’s prose and use of language is simply exquisite. The style is easy-to-read but is beautiful, elegant, and zen. “Pavilion of Women” exudes softness and sentence structure which will result in the reader wishing they could write in the same style, personally. Buck’s style of presentation and understanding of human emotion is reminiscent of Thomas Hardy novels and Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina”. “Pavilion of Women” is more in the vein of classic literature and can be pictures as a required reading for high school students. Buck possesses a massive amount of talent. The plot of “Pavilion of Women” proceeds at just the right pace with anticipation building neither too slowly or quickly. Exciting and with a dose of euphoria, Buck steadily keeps the reader’s attention. Offering various views and philosophies regarding love, the contrasts between “old” and modern ways of life, family structures, marriage, etc; “Pavilion of Women” entices the reader to consider his/her own life and either relate or contemplate. All the while Madame Wu’s character follows her own growth which is albeit slow but interesting. A weakness in “Pavilion of Women” occurred when Madame Wu was at the height of her growth/ awakening and from one moment to the next, was a different person. Her character arc and plot was slow and steady throughout and then instantly transformed which was unrealistic, unbelievable, and too “happily ever after”; causing a drastic departure from the magnificence of the book until that point. The latter parts of the novel became somewhat tedious and the story weaned slightly and ended on a weak note. Despite these flaws, the ultimate message, meaning, and beauties of life were still engrained with the reader. For those readers not interested in historical fiction which takes place in Asian settings; fear not. Personally, I am not to keen on Asian culture novels but “Pavilion of Women” does not take place during ancient dynasties and rather, nearing the time of Communist China. Although Buck clearly understands Chinese customs and ways of life; the culture isn’t overexposed and thus the novel is ideal even for the average reader. Overall, “Pavilion of Women” is a pleasure to read and much recommended. Pearl Buck not only has great story-writing skills but truly understands human nature.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Taryn

    What an utterly fascinating premise- a wealthy (Chinese) woman turns 40, and decides her husband needs a concubine so he'll leave her the h*** alone. She is fond of him, but is simply tired of having to perform her main wifely duty, and having already given him 4 sons, and being frightened of the dangers of late life pregnancies, she selects the concubine herself. Her family is horrified. At a certain point she befriends a foreign monk, whose exact religion is never clear, and her life is change What an utterly fascinating premise- a wealthy (Chinese) woman turns 40, and decides her husband needs a concubine so he'll leave her the h*** alone. She is fond of him, but is simply tired of having to perform her main wifely duty, and having already given him 4 sons, and being frightened of the dangers of late life pregnancies, she selects the concubine herself. Her family is horrified. At a certain point she befriends a foreign monk, whose exact religion is never clear, and her life is changed. She realizes that ever since she first married, she's been outwardly devoted to her growing family through her words and actions, but not in her heart. She's secretly always wanted everyone to just leave her alone, and has been waiting for years and years for the opportunity to retreat to her library. This monk convinces her that she has been inwardly selfish, and needs to open her heart to others. I think the second half of the book gets a little dull with preachiness, which seems to get in the way of the previously rocking good story. I also take a little issue with the monk's idea that happiness can only come from full engagement with others, while keeping one's personal artistic and intellectual pursuits of secondary importance. I don't completely disagree, but am not firmly on his side either.

  27. 5 out of 5

    K.

    "He would die earlier than need be, she thought, looking at his jowls, and then she thought again that it was better to die happy, even though earlier, than to die less happy, even though later." I oppose pretty much every "fundamental truth" Madame Wu believed about men and women and our place in this world, but Pavilion of Women was so beautifully written I was drawn in despite this disagreement. "Her soul had outstripped her life. It had gone out far beyond the four walls within which her body "He would die earlier than need be, she thought, looking at his jowls, and then she thought again that it was better to die happy, even though earlier, than to die less happy, even though later." I oppose pretty much every "fundamental truth" Madame Wu believed about men and women and our place in this world, but Pavilion of Women was so beautifully written I was drawn in despite this disagreement. "Her soul had outstripped her life. It had gone out far beyond the four walls within which her body lived. It roamed the world, and reached into the past and climbed toward the future, and her many thoughts played about that constant voyaging."

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kristyh

    I thought it was self absorbed navel gazing from beginning to end. I found it hard to admire anything about the stifling, traditional Chinese culture and philosophy portrayed in the House of Wu. I kept on waiting for the catalyst in the story, and when it came it changed nothing. The main character, Madam Wu, went from controlling and manipulating all around her in one direction, to controlling and manipulating all around her in another direction. If I hear about Madam Wu’s “silvery” voice, “sle I thought it was self absorbed navel gazing from beginning to end. I found it hard to admire anything about the stifling, traditional Chinese culture and philosophy portrayed in the House of Wu. I kept on waiting for the catalyst in the story, and when it came it changed nothing. The main character, Madam Wu, went from controlling and manipulating all around her in one direction, to controlling and manipulating all around her in another direction. If I hear about Madam Wu’s “silvery” voice, “slender” hands or “delicate” way of eating ever again, I think I will be the wife hanging from the rafters…..

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sherry Joiner

    It was like going on a soulful journey.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Y.

    I can't finish this (I don't want to, and I won't), due to various reasons. So much for the $ spent on Amazon!

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