“The New Year” – A Book Review

I’d forgotten how much I like Pearl S. Buck. Some time ago I read “The Good Earth” – her masterpiece – and found it a remarkable book. I’m going to reread it and write a review (stay tuned).

Most recently, at a used bookstore in Colorado Springs I found an old copy of “The New Year”. Finished with all of W. Somerset Maugham’s books and looking for fiction with meaning (hard to find these days) I considered myself fortuitous and bought the novel (and another – stay tuned for that too).

I was not disappointed. Pearl S. Buck is a remarkable novelist. A missionary kid (like me), her parents were Presbyterian missionaries in China in the late 1800s – when the mission field was the most exciting thing. Now the diplomats, the aid workers and the adventure travelers have rendered that part of the missionary job obsolete (making recruitment more difficult), but more than 100 years ago if you wanted to learn about our exotic world, there was nothing better than being a missionary.

This novel is about an American who had been a soldier in Korea during the war – and who, during his time living there, had fathered a child. But he has a problem. He is running for political office, and has ambitions that a mixed race, illegitimate child might torpedo.

What should he do?

The whole book is about that question – and the process by which he finds an answer to it. The twist, it is not him asking or answering the question. While the novel is written in omniscient (all points of view) the majority of the novel is spent inside the head of the man’s wife – as she comes to grip with her husband’s indiscretion, his past life, his newfound responsibility and what she should do about it all.

It is a very good book – as all Buck’s books are. Real problems, with real people. It only took me the better part of a day and half or two to read – but it was worth it. I hope you also find this story insightful, as I did.


About Joel D. Hirst

Joel D. Hirst is a novelist and a playwright. His most recently released work is "Dreams of the Defeated: A Play in Two Acts" about a political prisoner in a dystopian regime. His novels include "I, Charles, From the Camps" about the life of a young man in the African camps and "Lords of Misrule" about the making and unmaking of a jihadist in the Sahara. "The Lieutenant of San Porfirio" and its sequel "The Burning of San Porfirio" are about the rise and fall of socialist Venezuela (with magic).
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1 Response to “The New Year” – A Book Review

  1. Elizabeth Ellis says:

    Sounds great. I’m just coming to the end of Wolf Hall for the umpteenth time and after something new. I’ll keep an eye out for this.


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