East Wind: West Wind: The Saga of a Chinese Family - Pearl S. Buck

East Wind, West Wind originally titled Winds of Heaven was Pearl S. Buck's first novel published in the United States in 1930. Though it had gone through many earlier rejections, the acceptance to publish eventually came down to one final vote by Richard Walsh, the president of the publishing company (and who would become Pearl's second husband). He later revealed that he decided to publish it, " not because he liked it, but because he thought her capable of something better."


The story is told from the point of view of Kwei-lan, a Chinese girl raised strictly under the old Eastern traditions, newly married to a Chinese man who has studied medicine in the West. The grievous story of her marriage begins on her wedding night when her husband appears repulsed by her. The marriage goes unconsummated. Buck portrays the conflicts of a marriage with its origins in mixed ideology, the differences between Kwei-lan's Eastern manner of life and that of a "foreigner", and the philosophy behind the many ancient Chinese traditions that have kept the female servile to the male. I was mostly moved by Kwei-lan's sense of identity loss, as one partner feels the need to adapt to the other.


Hilary Spurling in her biography "Pearl Buck in China: A Journey to The Good Earth," pointed out some similarities of persons in Pearl's life that were incorporated in some of the characters of this novel.


There was good thematic material here but I felt the plots were weak. I definitely saw the impotence of a first novel in East Wind, West Wind, having read some of Buck's more significant novels to follow. This wasn't bad, but to parrot Mr. Walsh, Buck was capable of something better. That was proven in her next novel, The Good Earth.