Honestly, I never expected that I would enjoy Pearl Buck as much as I did - editions of her collected work were ubiquitous presence in many homes during 1960s but now they are mostly collecting dust and Buck herself is rarely discussed, as she is generally perceived as relic from another era. Which is strange, since I find her writing exceptionally beautiful, evocative and powerful. Her speciality were novels about early 20th century China, the subject she knew very well as she grew up there and saw it all herself firsthand - her loudest detractors are Chinese themselves who get very angry with her descriptions of poverty, struggle and hard life but I say fiddle-de-dee to all that, these unforgettable novels are not focused only on that, she also knowingly writes about old traditions and way of life that has long disappeared.
Main protagonist in "The Good Earth" is poor peasant Wang Lung who toils, sweats and bleeds for his fields, but our hearts are far more concerned about his silently suffering wife O-lan without whom he could never survive all the ups and downs of such life. Its extremely hard existence, constant fight for survival and there is simply not much time or energy left for affections or gentleness - when modern critics judge Pearl Buck as subjective, they don't take in account that culture, tradition and basically hard life itself shape people's behaviour. From my own experience I can recall some peasant families in my corner of the world, where lifetime of hard work created extremely hard-boiled people who took life stoically and never cried in front of anybody - it doesn't mean they didn't have feelings, but this was never discussed or expressed. The story is basically very simple but gripping and I could just not wait to continue reading until the very end. I kind of have great affection for Pearl Buck right now.