Three daughters of Madame Liang – Pearl S Buck
Three daughters of Madame Liang, published first in 1969 is one of the last pieces of Pearl S Buck’s work. I’ve read more than half a dozen of her pieces of work and, this one is as lucid, as deceptively simple and yet deep as others.
Through the book, Three daughters of Madame Liang, Pearl S Buck takes you into the story of a family, the family of Madame Liang. After her husband takes a concubine, because she could produce no son, Madame Liang leaves him. She sets out on her own and opens a gourmet restaurant in Shanghai. In the times of great turmoil, when good food is scarce, her restaurant survives by providing the best food to the Who’s who of People’s Republic. She, prudently keeps her opinions of the Republic to herself and lives in constant fear. She sends her three daughters – Grace, Mercy and Joy to a much safer world – America.
Grace, the eldest of them is summoned by the government to serve the nation. She returns to immerse herself into her service as a doctor and studying ancient Chinese medicine to compare it with the modern medicine in which she was trained. Grace falls in love with Liu Pang, a young physician despite knowing, he is narrow minded and has been brainwashed into communism. She adapts herself to new China.
Mercy, the younger daughter, a musician convinces her husband John Sung, a rocket scientist to return to China for self-fulfillment. They flee from America. Though, a communist China does not have any use of a musician, she could make use of the services of Mercy’s husband. But John sung refuses to create weapons and gets himself into trouble. Mercy’s experience with new China, forces her to escape.
The bitter sweet chemistry between Grace and Mercy, motivated by their changing loyalties to China is interesting. Madame Liang is deeply saddened by the two sisters growing apart but resigns since she could not live their lives for them.
Joy, the youngest daughter stays in America, never to return. She finds love in a fellow Chinese artist and settles down.
Pearl Buck paints a picture of Cultural Revolution through the very personal accounts and view points of people in Madame Liang’s family. The story is fast paced and the book, un-put-downable.