Dragon Seed by Pearl S. Buck
Ling Tan and his family live outside of Nanjing. They are all farmers. He has three sons with his wife. Two of the sons are married, but the youngest is as pretty as a girl. There is also a daughter, two daughters in fact, but one has married and moved into town with her husband, a shopkeeper. The family has their ordinary woes. They plant crops. They make meals. The mother-in-law complains about the daughter-in-laws. Life soon changes.
There are rumors that an enemy has come ashore. It’s a long way away, they say. It won’t come here, they say. Student protestors start the chaos that soon descends upon the city and countryside. The Japanese have invaded China. Shops are destroyed. Women are raped. People are murdered. Food and goods are appropriated. Ling Tan hides his family in the woods or at the home of a white woman. She tries to shelter all who come, but the Japanese soldiers still have demands of her.
Ling Tan’s family loses someone and they make plans to get past the invaders. They make a secret room. They illegally catch and eat fish. The bolder of Ling Tan’s family take movements against the Japanese. There are plots and attacks. In the end, Ling Tan is still a farmer, but he’s seen some awful things.
What I liked
Out of the Pearl S. Buck books I’ve read, this one seems the grittiest. It’s about war. It’s violent. It was published in 1942 and some of the things in the book weren’t exactly talked of in polite society. This makes this book cutting edge, in a way, for its time.
Pearl was a bit outspoken about matters in China. She cared a lot about the people she met in China and I’m sure she wasn’t at all happy about the brutal invasion of China by Japan. This book is fiction, but Pearl was certainly able to capture what it would have been like. She didn’t leave a lot out either, so you have to hand it to Pearl for doing historical fiction so well.
What I didn’t like
I’ve known the Japanese invasion of China was brutal for a long time. I’ve read a whole lot of fiction books set during this time period. With that said, this book seems to take it to a new level of brutality. It was awful. It’s terrible that it happened. I’m glad they all seem to get along now.
This book also takes quite a while to read. It could be boiled down to be more essential, but if you like that whole saga feel of it, you wouldn’t want it to be pared down to anything other than it is.
Let us be glad this war is over.
If you know anything about the Japanese invasion of China, do you think you could have survived it?
Is war harder on people who have little or on people who have more?