Historical Fiction

A House Divided

Author: Pearl S. Buck

Published By: Moyer Bell Limited

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            It all began three years ago when I decided to read a classic novel by Pearl S. Buck called The Good Earth.  For some reason, when I started reading it in my school days, I never really got into it.  As an adult, I wanted to get to the classics I had never gotten to as a young student.  Who knew that, as an adult, I would love reading this novel?  And to discover that it was a trilogy - well, that was hardly expected either.  Over the years, I have been collecting the rest of the trilogy and have finally reached the finale, A House Divided.

            The Good Earth told the tale of Wang Lung and his struggles to become a successful landowner and the price he eventually pays by becoming everything he despised in the rich landowners he dealt with over the years.  Sons told the tale of Wang Lung’s children, in particular, his youngest son, Wang the Tiger, fierce yet fair warlord who scorns the way of the earth known to his father and decides to become a soldier rather than a farmerA House Divided ends the tale with the story of Wang the Tiger’s son Wang Yuan.

            Wang the Tiger sent Wang Yuan away to learn the ways of a competent soldier, but the man entrusted with Wang Yuan’s wellness takes him to a secret school, one comprised of members of a rebellion, bent on taking down the warlords and landlords in power.  Unable to forsake his father, Wang Yuan returns home, but he realizes that he has never fit in there either.  Wang Yuan, like his grandfather, has a love for the land, not for war.

            When Wang Yuan runs away to his grandfather’s land, he realizes true happiness.  Unfortunately, he has not learned how to become a farmer.  Unwilling  to return to his father’s lands, he travels to the home of his sister.  His sister’s mother is more than willing to let him live there, understanding that the new generation of youth must be free to chose their own paths in life.  Before long, Wang Yuan is in school learning what he needs to know about the world and about his true love - the land. 

            But when his father attempts to marry him to a woman he doesn’t know in the old traditional ways, Wang Yuan fights back, joining the growing rebellion.  Although he is not a strong member of the rebellion, Wang Yuan finds himself on the run, hunted down by those who wish to quell it.  He travels to America to continue his learning and hide from the authorities, but will his time there lead him to embrace the western foreign ways or long for the older, more traditional ways of his native lands.

            A House Divided ties everything up in The House of Earth Trilogy quite nicely.  I loved the way it was written in the style of a true Chinese tale, with the same flowing verbiage and nuances that make listening to Chinese folklore so enjoyable.  Pearl S. Buck’s writing is descriptive and captivating,  One can picture every moment in the book in their mind’s eye quite vividly. 

            The main character, Wang Yuan, is someone the reader will either love or hate…or a little of both.  He comes across as being a bit on the whiney side, often expecting the world to go his way automatically and never suspecting that there might be bumps in the road along his chosen path.  But then, you start to feel sorry for him when you realize that this is a man caught between two worlds.  He wants freedom for the youth, but he also wants some of the traditional ways to continue.  He hates to look at the poor and the suffering and to even be touched by him causes him to cringe.  Yet, there is a part of him who wants to help his country so that these people can find another way to live besides begging in the streets.  Wang Yuan never seems to find himself completely of one world or another and, in his confusion over where he belongs, he almost loses everything he holds dear.

            I also enjoyed the historical aspects of this novel.  Although the timeline is difficult to pin down exactly, having read about the various uprisings in China, I could surmise the book took place sometime before and/or during Mao’s uprisings.  I found it interesting to see how Buck was able to dramatize the feelings of the various views of the Chinese people affected by the uprisings - the average farmer who wants nothing to do with the industrialization, the landlords and warlords who are losing their power, the youth of the nation who want their freedom from the old ways, the older generation who are seeing their traditions slowly dying.

            I won’t give away the ending of the novel, but I will say that, not only does it tie things up, but it leaves room for the imagination to wander as to what is next in Wang Yuan’s future.  Things come full circle in his life and I love how the events unfold so quickly toward the end.  I truly enjoyed this trilogy and would be happy to read anything Pearl S. Buck in the future.  If her other novels are half as good as The House of Earth Trilogy, I will be quite satisfied.


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