Pavilion of Women

On her fortieth birthday, Madame Wu carries out a decision she has been planning for a long time: she tells her husband that after twenty-four years their physical life together is now over and she wishes him to take a second wife. The House of Wu, one of the oldest and most revered in China, is thrown into an uproar by her decision, but Madame Wu will not be dissuaded and arranges for a young country girl to come take her place in bed. Elegant and detached, Madame Wu orchestrates this change as she manages everything in the extended household of more than sixty relatives and servants. Alone in her own quarters, she relishes her freedom and reads books she has never been allowed to touch. When her son begins English lessons, she listens, and is soon learning from the foreigner, a free-thinking priest named Brother Andre, who will change her life. Few books raise so many questions about the nature and roles of men and women, about self-discipline and happiness.

Nanci Arvizu, Writing and Reviews Editor

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  1. A story about family, duty, and personal growth Pearl S. Buck’s novel tells the story of the Wu family in pre-communist China. Nobel and respected, they have lived for generations in the same tradition. Madame Wu is the mistress of this household, her whole life spent fulfilling the duties of her sex – ministering to her husband, bearing sons, dealing with servants, maintaining a smooth order in the house. But she is intelligent and deeply emotional, and has felt caged by an existence where everyone else come first. 

  2. Sensational! I love and treasure this book immeasurably. Every time I find a copy at a used book sale, I buy it and send it to my one of my women friends. Women everywhere should read this spectacular, beautifully written story of the independent, sassy Madame Wu. I thought Ms. Buck could never top “The Good Earth” but this one did it for me. I won’t give a book report, just my humble opinion that this book should be on the reading list of every woman on earth….even my 20-something daughters loved the…

  3. Duty Changed Through Love to Joy After reading and thoroughly enjoying her novel, “Pavilion of Women” (written in 1948), it was not difficult for me to understand why Pearl S. Buck earned the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature in 1938. As a natural storyteller, Buck allows one to enter the heart and mind of her main character, the beautiful and accomplished Madame Wu, so fully and painlessly by using simple explanations that seem so effortlessly illumined that they transcend the cultural differences of a mid 20th century China…

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