Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Peonies... and Pearl Buck.

For several weeks now, the peonies have been out in flower, with beautiful ruffled petals, billowing out of their slightly oriental-looking buds... Over this same period, as chance would have it, I have been reading a copy of the book Pivoine that I recovered from one of the book-share points around town.
Set in mid 19th-century China, it traces the story of a wealthy Jewish merchant family living in Kaifeng, a city set in the province of Henan and known for its community of Chinese Jews. The eponymous character of the novel, Peony, is in fact the Chinese bondmaid of the Ezra household, and her actions are central to the events that will mark the family's fate and faith. Quite what those will be exactly, and the outcome of which, I have yet to learn as I haven't made much progress so far, so absolutely no need to issue a 'spoiler' warning here !
For years, I used to come across the name of the author in question, Pearl Buck, when rummaging around second-hand book shops and visiting brocantes... and I gave it a very wide berth! As I had never heard of her novels in England, or anywhere else for that matter, I just assumed this was some writer of ghastly potboilers - steeped in romance and/or adventure; hence the seemingly stagey name ! Little did I know at the time that Buck (1892—1973) was not only a highly-acclaimed novelist, born to American missionary parents and brought up in China, but also responsible for the foundation of an international, interracial adoption organisation. In fact her life is just as fascinating as her writings but more of all that when I have actually finished reading Pivoine !


  1. Merci pour ce petit texte d'hommage à toutes les pivoines!
    j' ignorais tellement de mots anglais que je n' avais jamais rencontrés et que je pique comme autant de trouvailles sur les plages de vos promenades poétiques: peonies (easy) but bondmaid, potboiler writer, to give it a verywide berth,..
    Vous resterez longtemps ou toujours mon professeur d' anglais préféré.

  2. Merci! Tout comme la vie, l'apprentissage d'une langue n'est pas un long fleuve tranquille et il n'y a jamais de fin...


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