8. Pearl of China by Anchee Min
It took me halfway through this audiobook to realize that one of the protagonists was none other than Pearl S. Buck. I'm not sure how this escaped me, except to say, with embarrassment, that I've never read Buck and had a very mistaken idea that she was a Chinese man. Looking back, I'm really not sure why I ever had that idea and I very much now want to read Buck's oeuvre, or at least The Good Earth.
That said, this is another extremely evocative and entertaining book from Anchee Min, who has become my go-to audiobook author (entirely by the accident of a very limited selection at one library I frequent). The audio here is particularly rewarding, as it includes several songs in English and Chinese.
My favorite part of this book, however, is that it's NOT about Pearl Buck, or at least, not primarily. The narrator and primary protagonist is Willow Yi, Pearl's (I'm guessing fictional) childhood best friend. The book begins and ends, and spends most of its time with, Willow, but her friendship with Pearl is an integral thread. The novel explores a moving friendship between the two women, in a time when too few novels take friendship between women as a central theme. It is also, at the same time, a tongue-in-cheek ode to the ups and downs of fortune in a long-lived life.
Recommended to fans of Buck, of Chinese history, of women, of friendship,and of plain good writing.