PEONY by Pearl S. Buck
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China- 100 years ago- is the setting for a novel presenting a phase of China's social history unfamiliar to the majority of readers- the absorption of an accepted Jewish minority into the stream of Chinese life. Alone among nationals, the Chinese has accepted the Jews, treated them as equals, admired their acumen, respected their religion, married their sons and their daughters. The story tells of a certain Jewish family, the mother the dominant factor, determined to keep the blood stream clear, to strengthen the observance of traditions and faith, to forget- if possible- that her husband had had a Chinese mother. To this end, she plans to marry her only son, David, to Leah, daughter of the Rabbi. But David has looked on the third daughter of his father's Chinese partner -- and found her fair. And Peony, bond-maid, brought up with David almost as a sister, loves him and knows her chance lies only in his marriage to one of her race. It is a strange struggle- a silent one between two strong women -- and Leah dies a tragic death, and David marries his Keuilan -- and Peony stays on to serve him. The story suggests in its parallels something of Valley of Decision, in the devotion, the self-abnegation of Peony to the man- and the family- she loves. There's a thread of inner conflict here- as recurrently, but with lessening force, David's Jewishness asserts itself. But the ultimate- when the older generation has passed- is assimilation, effortless, dignified, until only the spark, the spirit survives... Not one of Mrs. Buck's major books, but good reading and a new field.

Pub Date: May 10th, 1948
ISBN: 1559213388
Publisher: John Day