KINFOLK by Pearl Buck

KINFOLK

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This merges Pearl Buck's two types of novels, for here is a contemporary novel with characters who are Chinese-Americans, while the scene shifts from New York to China and back. Dr. Liang was a scholar, a lecturer, a man who lived in the aura of the Confucianism he taught, who talked in poetic terms of his homeland, but kept his face turned away from its realities. His wife (I thought her the dominant character of the book) was outwardly wholly Chinese in manner, thought expression, point of view, but she had her own little rebellions and schemes. But it is within the ranks of the four children that conflicts motivate the story. The eldest son, a graduate physician, stands by his decision to go ""home"" to China to practise medicine, despite the breakup of his engagement because of it. And that return proves a painful process of reorientation, of casting off the illusions and taking on the unsavory realities of modern China. Then his younger brother, still at school, and his sisters, are sent out to him, in a sweeping repudiation of the youngest sister's denial of her birthright. Mary, the elder sister, is ripe for the Chinese experience, and makes good in her determined battle against ignorance and dirt, and eventually marries a doctor friend of her brother's. But the two younger ones fail,- Louise marries an American after all, and goes back to America; Peter dies in a secret war against schoolboy revolutionists. And James, slowly turns from the new ways to the old, even to accepting the wife chosen for him, and the slow coming of love. Shanghai- Peiping- the ancestral village with Uncle Tao the controlling spirit -- and in sharp contrast the life of Chinese in New York -- these provide stage sets for a story that is told in cadences that occasionally recall Pearl Buck's earlier work, but -- in dialogue particularly, slip too often into the awkwardness of what seems too literal translation,- neither good English, nor good literate Chinese. Take these hurdles of style in your stride, and the story itself has much of interest and importance to our understanding.

Pub Date: April 21st, 1949
ISBN: 1559211563
Publisher: John Day