peonyWho wrote this book and when?
Pearl S. Buck wrote this and published it in 1948.

Has there been a film version?
No, I don’t think so.

Who are the important characters?
Peony – a bondmaid in the house of a Jewish family, she is very beautiful and in love with their son
David ben Ezra – the only son of the most prominent Jewish family in the city of Kaifeng, China
Leah – the beautiful daughter of the Rabbi of Kaifeng, informally betrothed to David
Kueilan – the daughter of a wealthy businessman of Kaifeng, beautiful and David is in love with her
Ezra ben Israel – David’s father and a wealthy Jewish businessman
Madame Ezra – David’s domineering and thoroughly Jewish mother
The Rabbi – Leah’s father, blind and faithful to the Jewish religion
Aaron – the Rabbi’s lazy and evil son

What’s it about?
This story begins as a story of hidden love, as Peony the servant is in love with her master, David. David is the only son of a prominent Jewish family and is expected not only to take over the business but to marry the daughter of the Rabbi and continue the Jewish line in Kaifeng. However, David is smitten with Kueilan – a local Chinese girl. As David struggles with his feelings of love, lust, and duty, the story develops into a tale ripe with the themes of when to do what is right versus when to do what is desirable.

Why is this book a classic/bestseller?
I don’t think it is either.

Do I recommend you read this book?
Not really. Many of Buck’s other books are much better.

How did this book make my list?
I eventually would like to read all of her works – “The Good Earth” is one of my favorite novels of all time.

Has it won any awards?

Favorite quotes:
“The moon rose over the canal, and though the waters were foul, the moonlight turned them pure and beautiful as they flowed beneath the ancient and mighty bridge of white marble.” – p 132

Anything else?
This is a pretty standard Buck book – themes of religion, duty, romance, and China.

Personal thoughts:
Having read “The Good Earth” as my first foray into Buck’s novels, everything else by her has had a tough climb to reach the pinnacle I’ve put “Earth” on. This book does a very good job, but still doesn’t topple “Earth.” I liked Peony and David as characters, but I never really could find myself enjoying the story. I wanted to know what happened next, but I wasn’t compelled to keep on reading it. Halfway through the book, it seemed like the story lost steam and veered off into a completely different direction than it originally intended…leaving me wondering what the heck was going on.