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Burying The Bones

Imprint: Profile Books
Subject: Biography & Memoir

Burying The Bones

Pearl Buck in China

Hilary Spurling

A thrilling portrait of the extraordinary childhood of Pearl Buck, the now-forgotten bestselling Nobel Prize winning novelist and author of The Good Earth

eBook (ePUB/MOBI)?
9781847651938 (7 Apr 2011)

About the book

Pearl Buck was raised in China by her American parents, Presbyterian missionaries from Virginia. Blonde and blue-eyed she looked startlingly foreign, but felt as at home as her Chinese companions. She ran free on the grave-littered grasslands behind her house, often stumbling across the tiny bones of baby girls who had been suffocated at birth. Buck's father was a terrifying figure, with a maniacal zeal for religious conversion - a passion rarely shared by the local communities he targeted. He drained the family's budget for his Chinese translation of the New Testament, while his aggrieved, long-suffering wife did her utmost to create a homely environment for her children, several of whom died tragically young.

Pearl Buck would eventually rise to eminence in America as a bestselling author (her most renowned work, The Good Earth, re-entered the bestseller charts in 2004 when it was selected for Oprah's Book Club) but in this startlingly original biography, Spurling recounts with elegance and great insight her unspeakable upbringing in a China that was virtually unknown to the West.

About the author

Hilary Spurling is the author of the universally acclaimed biography of Henri Matisse which was the Whitbread Book of the Year in 2005. Her biography of Ivy Compton-Burnett won the Heinemann and Duff Cooper prizes. She has also written biographies of Paul Scott and La Grande Thérèse (Profile). She has been an arts critic for the Spectator, Observer and Telegraph, and lives in London.


Pearl Buck is one of the greatest writers on China, and Hilary Spurling has brought her and the China of her time to life with amazing immediacy and perception.

- Jung Chang

Hilary Spurling has given us a riveting, multi-dimensional portrait of a writer torn between her Chinese childhood and her American roots. Haunting, yet firmly rooted in Chinese history, Burying the Bones shows the real Pearl Buck behind the well-known iconic image.

- Hannah Pakula, author of The Last Empress

From its wonderful opening sentence to its poignant close, this is a superb biography. Spurling has brought her characters to robust life. Pearl emerges as an extraordinary woman, a compound of contradictions. Readers will learn what they need to know about China in that tumultuous time and place at the beginning of the 20th century. And Spurling makes the case for Buck's importance as a writer.

- Peter Conn, Vartan Gregorian Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania, author of Pearl S. Buck: A Cultural Biography

It is magnificent - a stunning story and virtuoso writing. All Spurling's books are wonderful but this really takes her in new and strange and unfamiliar directions - boldly conceived, brilliantly executed.

- Elaine Showalter, [Pre-publication endorsement]

Boldly conceived and magnificently written Bones should repair Buck's literary fortunes and restore her to the pantheon of feminist heroines ... Hilary Spurling has journeyed far beyond her previous cultural boundaries to rescue Pearl Buck from what E P Thompson memorably called the 'enormous condescension of posterity'. Original, enlightening and with a narrative as thrilling as an epic film, Burying the Bones is a triumphant landmark in the development of creative biography.

- Elaine Showalter, Literary Review

Additional Information

Imprint: Profile Books
Subject: Biography & Memoir