80. A HOUSE DIVIDED, BY PEARL S. BUCK (Book 3 of House of Earth)
The third and last installment on the House of Earth series. To recap, I liked the first book much better than the second, but I still decided to read the third one for completion’s sake.
Synopsis: Wang Yuan, Wang the Tiger’s son, finds himself in the midst of a rebellion and is unsure to which side he should belong. He escapes to the house of father’s wife, mother of his half-sister, and comes in contact with the Western culture. Seduced by it, he spends six years abroad, studying in a Western university, and comes back to China during a full-blown revolution.
Overall enjoyment: Meh. I liked it better than the second one, but not by much. She tries to show the transition between generations, from Wang Lung in the first one to a more “modern” one in Wang Yuan (I suppose it would be the modern generation when the book was first published, back in 1935); although the first and the third books are very well marked with it, the second one falls in a bit of a void and feels awkward for it. I didn’t care for the main character, and thought the ending was just stupid.
Plot: It is, like the other two books, a saga, so the plot is not really the point here. The only comment I would make on this is that I REALLY LOATHE this tendency that books (and most other media) have of implying romance is the be-all end-all of any human life and it makes everything right. So he finds a woman he doesn’t despise as much as all the others, tricks himself into thinking he’s in love with her, and then bully her with his feelings until she relents. That doesn’t solve any of his problems, or his family’s, or anything, really. Yet I’m supposed to feel like this is a happy ending? That this makes everything well? Fuck off.
Characters: Wang Yuan is such a fuckboy. A very believable one, sure, so he’s not a badly written character, but I honestly just couldn’t care less about him or anything to do with him.
World/setting: She does a competent job describing the locations and how each was different than the other. Especially how Yuan feels like he’s in a different country altogether when he goes to live with his “aunt”. On the other hand, she could have done a better job with the political turmoil that was the background for the parts set in China; it felt very abrupt and almost nonsensical in their lack of foreshadowing.
Writing style: She used the same, semi-oral, style of the previous two books. Since this one is a bit more modern than them, it doesn’t really fit as well as it did before.
Representation: It’s a Chinese story with Chinese characters.
Political correctness: There are some interesting elements of discussion on racism when Yuan goes to the West and how people react to him, and talk about his land. Plus, even though Yuan is a fuckboy, the narrator thinks he’s a fuckboy too, and will sometimes point his fuckboyery out. (Those moments are few and far between, though.)
Up next: Dressed for Death, by Donna Leon