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Author(s): Alexander Brede

Review by: Alexander Brede
Source: The Far Eastern Quarterly, Vol. 1, No. 4 (Aug., 1942), p. 390
Published by: Association for Asian Studies
Stable URL:
Accessed: 08-02-2016 13:45 UTC

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Dragonseed.BY PEARL S. BUCK. New York: JohnDay, 1942. 378 p. $2.50.

Mrs. Buck's latestnovelnarratesthehavocand disruption thattheJapa-
neseinvasionhas createdin a ruralChinesefamily.LingTan andhisclose-
knithouseholdare presentedat the outsetas livingan idylliclife,several
milessouthofNanking.In 1937,thewar in thenorthseemsveryremoteto
them,butas theJapanesepresscloserandrefugeespass theirdoor,theybe-
come apprehensive. Nankingfalls: looting,rape,and murderfollow;and
his own householdis attacked.He and his sons join theguerillas,and his
homebecomestheireffective base. Their firstreactionis apathyand help-
lessness;but springbringshope and resistance,and henceforth the family
carrieson as normallyas possible,by day, tillingthesoil,withone eye on
theconqueror, bynightharassinghim.It is thisdisruptedlifethatmakesthe
The novelis excellentin characterization, especiallyof LingTan and the
second son. They representthe hope,the energy,the resourcefulness of
theChinese:resisttheenemyandtilltheland,for"thelandbelongsto those
who tillit." Jade,thesecondson's wife,is admirably drawn:wilfulandin-
telligent-alovableplagueto themanwho lovesher-she nevertheless finds
a happymarriagewithintheancientcustom.Aboutthethirdson,Mrs. Buck
weavesan extravagant butnotimpossibleromancewithMayli,thedaughter
ofa diplomat, whohas spentmostofherlifein America.
The bookis straight written
narrative, in the"Biblical"styleof The good
facts,evento thesuicideofthe"white
earth.It is basedon well-authenticated
woman in the "foreignschool" wherethe womenfindprotection.Mrs.
Buck knowswell how to arousecuriosityand createsuspenseand presents
thewar-torn determinedChineseobjectivelyand concisely,concretelyand
vividly.Incidentally she showsthattheChinesepeasant,thoughilliterate,
has a strongsenseofpoetryandbeauty.This is arousedbya flight ofenemy
airplanes,whichto himhave thegrace and beautyof "wild geese, flying
The book,however,is notso gripping as Thegoodearth.This maybe be-
cause Mrs. Buckhas livedintimately thelifein The goodearthandhas long
meditateduponit, whereas,thoughshe knowsthe milieuof Dragonseed,
shehasnotherself experienced
theterrible situationswhichtheChinesehave
suffered lately.One mightadd thewishthatthepublisher had reprinted
delightful pen sketcheswhichaccompaniedtheinstalments in Asia.


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