Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Review: The Hidden Flower by Pearl S. Buck

Title: The Hidden Flower
Author: Pearl S. Buck
Genre: Literary
Publisher: Cardinal Pocket Books
First published: 1952
Pages: 234

Rating: 2 out of 10 stars

Although I have no doubt that Pearl S. Buck is a great writer, there is also no doubt in my mind that this is a horribly written book.

The Hidden Flower opens a few years after World War II has ended. Josui Sakai is a young college student in Japan, who grew up in America before her family decided to move back to their home country when they were threatened with internment for Japanese-Americans. Josui's father feels that America betrayed him, and now forbids any Western customs in his traditional, strictly run household. So when Josui meets and falls in love with a handsome young American officer named Allen Kennedy, it is not well received by her family. They are forbidden from seeing each other, and yet, they have a hurried wedding and head back to the states together. After being turned out by one family, Josui finds her new in-laws to be even more hostile, and must decide if her love can withstand the difficulties that accompany it.

This story was absolutely ridiculous. It's a shame - I was very excited when I found it in a used book store. I love finding books by famous authors when the individual work itself is relatively unheard of.
However, there is apparently a good reason why this one has been overlooked. It deserves to be.

Josui is a stupid, timid creature that I certainly never felt any warmth toward. She is made out to be intelligent and good and wonderful (as everyone in the book is always telling us), but I saw no evidence of this.

I think that this book has to contain one of the worst romance stories I have ever read.
Josui meets an American officer, Allen, one day while walking to school. Though she knows she shouldn't, she tells him her name and where she lives after he presses her.
A few days after that, the two meet and Josui gives him a tour of Japan. They only spend a few hours together, and after that, they are saying that they are in love, and Josui is already planning her marriage to him and the children that they will have.
A few months later, (they never see each other again in this time) they hastily marry.

Buck constantly gives us phrases such as "And he did love her. With all his heart." And this is within the first few hours that Allen has ever met Josui. The author builds up a grand romance in the character's heads, but this is firmly where it stays - in their delusional minds.

I intensely disliked the character of Allen.
He isn't in love! He simply wants to have sex, but the thought of doing it with just any cheap prostitute is a turn off for him. Sophisticated, proper women are his thing, but he will only be allowed to have such a girl if he marries her. So, he goes about marrying (and telling himself that he is passionately in love with) the very first high-born, traditional Japanese girl he meets. Or sees, rather.
He is very annoying with his sappy exclamations of adoration, and selfish in everything he does.
When his mother refuses to let Josui stay in her home, instead of standing up to her, he lies to Josui about it and tells her they must move somewhere else. When Allen's mother invites him home for Christmas, but refuses again to let Josui come visit, he simply goes without her.
And he is constantly dwelling on the idea of Cynthia - he should have married Cynthia (even though he doesn't actually feel that way), Cynthia is his match, Cynthia is perfect for him, Cynthia, Cynthia, Cynthia.
He doesn't actually feel any love toward her - I think that he just wanted to convince himself that every girl in town wanted him.

Another annoyance was how every character seemed to have some sort of psychic ability to know what people were thinking.
One day, after Josui has secretly met with Allen, her father says to her "Something has happened. I see it in your face. You have met someone." And this is when she has just walked in the door!
Another time, when she is sad about Allen, her mother somehow knows exactly what is going on the moment Josui looks into her eyes when she wakes her.

In short, this wasn't a successful attempt at a romance. The entire story, I just wished that Allen would die, or something - anything to stop them from carrying on with their ridiculous supposed "romance." Surely, this is not the thoughts a reader should have in a love story!

I am very glad that this book was relatively short, because it was already hard enough to get through.
I am also glad that Pearl S. Buck has other, far better novels I can read, and comfort myself with. I guess that we all have our bad days, even famous authors.