Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Irvin Block’s The Lives of Pearl Buck: A Tale of China and America begins with the story of Buck’s birth in her maternal grandparents’ home in West Virginia while her parents were on leave from China. Block then narrates all the major events of Buck’s life, culminating in her fame at the age of forty following the publication of the novel The Good Earth (1931). The last third of the book describes, in much less detail, her remaining forty-one years, and the author provides short summaries of some of Buck’s most famous novels.

The book’s subtitle, A Tale of China and America, is illustrated by following Buck’s frequent shifts between China and the United States. After higher education at Randolph-Macon Women’s College in Lynchburg, Virginia, Buck returned to China. There, in 1917, she met and married John Lossing Buck, a young American agricultural specialist, and they had a mentally handicapped daughter, Carol, in 1921. Buck tried to devote her life to her husband and daughter, but she is shown as being poorly matched with John and as dissatisfied and unfulfilled. She began writing and published a few stories and essays, partly to help with the costs of her daughter’s medical treatment. Her novel The Good Earth, which depicts the life of a typical peasant family in the areas of China where Buck grew up and later lived with her husband, brought her both fortune and fame. A flood of books followed, and...

(The entire section is 550 words.)