Burying The Bones

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01*20100329

In Burying The Bones", distinguished biographer Hilary Spurling takes as her subject Pearl Buck, the highly influential American author whose astonishing life proved even more fantastic than her popular novels of the 1930s, 40s and 50s.

Born to Christian missionaries in 1890s China, Buck's writing helped change Western perceptions of that country forever; in recognition of which she won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938.

Pearl's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel "The Good Earth" portrayed the lives of ordinary Chinese people and became a worldwide bestseller when it was published in 1932 (it still sells in its thousands each year).

Though her work has fallen out of fashion with the public, she is still held in high regard by writers such as Jung Chang, the acclaimed author of "Wild Swans", who described Buck as "One of the greatest writers on China'".

Hilary Spurling is the author of "The Unknown Matisse", listed as one of the New York Times' Ten Best Books of 1998, and "Matisse The Master", which was named Whitbread Book of the Year, and won the Los Angeles Times biography prize, in 2005.

Reader: Lindsay Duncan.

Abridger: Alison Joseph.

Producer: Kirsteen Cameron.

Lindsay Duncan reads from Hilary Spurling's biography of American writer Pearl Buck."

01*20100329

In Burying The Bones", distinguished biographer Hilary Spurling takes as her subject Pearl Buck, the highly influential American author whose astonishing life proved even more fantastic than her popular novels of the 1930s, 40s and 50s.

Born to Christian missionaries in 1890s China, Buck's writing helped change Western perceptions of that country forever; in recognition of which she won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938.

Pearl's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel "The Good Earth" portrayed the lives of ordinary Chinese people and became a worldwide bestseller when it was published in 1932 (it still sells in its thousands each year).

Though her work has fallen out of fashion with the public, she is still held in high regard by writers such as Jung Chang, the acclaimed author of "Wild Swans", who described Buck as "One of the greatest writers on China'".

Hilary Spurling is the author of "The Unknown Matisse", listed as one of the New York Times' Ten Best Books of 1998, and "Matisse The Master", which was named Whitbread Book of the Year, and won the Los Angeles Times biography prize, in 2005.

Reader: Lindsay Duncan.

Abridger: Alison Joseph.

Producer: Kirsteen Cameron.

Lindsay Duncan reads from Hilary Spurling's biography of American writer Pearl Buck."

02*20100330

Lindsay Duncan reads from Burying The Bones" - the latest book by acclaimed biographer Hilary Spurling.

Her subject is Pearl Buck one of the most successful and popular American novelists of the 20th Century.

Though her work has now fallen out of fashion, in her day Pearl was a phenomenal bestseller.

The novel that made her name was "The Good Earth" - and it still sells in its thousands - which depicted for the first time the gruelling conditions of China's rural poor.

Born to Presbyterian missionaries in 1890s China, Buck's first hand experience of the language and people informed her writing and helped to change Western perceptions of that country forever; in recognition of which she won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938.

In today's episode, we learn more about Pearl's childhood and the ways in which her father's missionary zeal impoverished his family.

A firebrand preacher who was often absent for long periods of time, he invariably spent his meagre wages on a project to translate the New Testament into Chinese.

Pearl's mother lost four children to illnesses which could have been treated easily had they better access to food and medicine.

This was the potent environment which formed Pearl and inspired her adult imagination.

Abridger: Alison Joseph

Producer: Kirsteen Cameron.

Pearl Buck's missionary family face violence and famine in early 20th-century China."

02*20100330

Lindsay Duncan reads from Burying The Bones" - the latest book by acclaimed biographer Hilary Spurling.

Her subject is Pearl Buck one of the most successful and popular American novelists of the 20th Century.

Though her work has now fallen out of fashion, in her day Pearl was a phenomenal bestseller.

The novel that made her name was "The Good Earth" - and it still sells in its thousands - which depicted for the first time the gruelling conditions of China's rural poor.

Born to Presbyterian missionaries in 1890s China, Buck's first hand experience of the language and people informed her writing and helped to change Western perceptions of that country forever; in recognition of which she won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938.

In today's episode, we learn more about Pearl's childhood and the ways in which her father's missionary zeal impoverished his family.

A firebrand preacher who was often absent for long periods of time, he invariably spent his meagre wages on a project to translate the New Testament into Chinese.

Pearl's mother lost four children to illnesses which could have been treated easily had they better access to food and medicine.

This was the potent environment which formed Pearl and inspired her adult imagination.

Abridger: Alison Joseph

Producer: Kirsteen Cameron.

Pearl Buck's missionary family face violence and famine in early 20th-century China."

03*20100331

Lindsay Duncan reads another excerpt from Hilary Spurling's new book: Burying The Bones".

The distinguished biographer's new subject is the astonishing life of Nobel Prize-winning author Pearl Buck, one of the most successful and popular American novelists of the 20th Century.

(She's best remembered for her novel "The Good Earth", which is still a bestseller.)

Pearl's desire for independence led her to make a hasty marriage of which her family disapproved.

Refusing to be cowed by a series of personal tragedies, she discovered that her imagination offered escape from her difficulties and she began to write fiction in earnest.

Abridger: Alison Joseph

Producer: Kirsteen Cameron.

Marrying in haste, soon repentful, Pearl writes to escape personal difficulties."

03*20100331

Lindsay Duncan reads another excerpt from Hilary Spurling's new book: Burying The Bones".

The distinguished biographer's new subject is the astonishing life of Nobel Prize-winning author Pearl Buck, one of the most successful and popular American novelists of the 20th Century.

(She's best remembered for her novel "The Good Earth", which is still a bestseller.)

Pearl's desire for independence led her to make a hasty marriage of which her family disapproved.

Refusing to be cowed by a series of personal tragedies, she discovered that her imagination offered escape from her difficulties and she began to write fiction in earnest.

Abridger: Alison Joseph

Producer: Kirsteen Cameron.

Marrying in haste, soon repentful, Pearl writes to escape personal difficulties."

04*20100401

Lindsay Duncan reads another extract from Burying The Bones", Hilary Spurling's account of the astonishing life of Pearl Buck.

The first American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature (in 1938), Pearl's popular novels were rooted in her childhood experiences of growing up in rural China, the daughter of missionaries, at the turn of the 20th century.

Jung Chang, the author of "Wild Swans" has described Pearl Buck as "one of the greatest writers on China".

Today's episode explores the extraordinary effect that Pearl's commercial success had on her family.

This was most powerfully expressed in the freedom she had to secure a future for her daughters - including the best healthcare for her disabled daughter.

But success came at a price: cracks began to appear in her marriage and Pearl became the focus of a divorce scandal that rocked 1930s America.

Abridger: Alison Joseph.

Producer: Kirsteen Cameron.

Liberated by her success, Pearl's private life nonetheless begins to fall apart."

04*20100401

Lindsay Duncan reads another extract from Burying The Bones", Hilary Spurling's account of the astonishing life of Pearl Buck.

The first American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature (in 1938), Pearl's popular novels were rooted in her childhood experiences of growing up in rural China, the daughter of missionaries, at the turn of the 20th century.

Jung Chang, the author of "Wild Swans" has described Pearl Buck as "one of the greatest writers on China".

Today's episode explores the extraordinary effect that Pearl's commercial success had on her family.

This was most powerfully expressed in the freedom she had to secure a future for her daughters - including the best healthcare for her disabled daughter.

But success came at a price: cracks began to appear in her marriage and Pearl became the focus of a divorce scandal that rocked 1930s America.

Abridger: Alison Joseph.

Producer: Kirsteen Cameron.

Liberated by her success, Pearl's private life nonetheless begins to fall apart."

05 LAST20100402

Lindsay Duncan reads the final extract from Hilary Spurling's new book: Burying The Bones".

The distinguished biographer's subject is the astonishing life of Pearl Buck, one of the most successful and popular American novelists of the 20th Century.

In today's episode we learn that as she entered old age, Pearl's indomitable spirit continued to shine as she shocked and surprised her family with a series of bizarre life choices.

Pearl never quite recovered her equilibrium after the death of her second husband and, surrounded by a coterie of flamboyant young men, became increasingly cloistered - receiving visitors in a 'throne' room; a strange echo of the last days of her childhood heroine, the last empress of China.

Though her work has now fallen out of fashion, in her day Pearl Buck was a phenomenal bestseller.

The novel that made her name was "The Good Earth" which depicted for the first time the gruelling conditions of China's rural poor.

Born to Presbyterian missionaries in 1890s China, Buck's first hand experience of the language and people informed her writing and helped to change Western perceptions of that country forever; in recognition of which she won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938.

Abridger: Alison Joseph.

Producer: Kirsteen Cameron.

As she enters a frail old age, Pearl Buck continues to shock and surprise her friends."

05 LAST20100402

Lindsay Duncan reads the final extract from Hilary Spurling's new book: Burying The Bones".

The distinguished biographer's subject is the astonishing life of Pearl Buck, one of the most successful and popular American novelists of the 20th Century.

In today's episode we learn that as she entered old age, Pearl's indomitable spirit continued to shine as she shocked and surprised her family with a series of bizarre life choices.

Pearl never quite recovered her equilibrium after the death of her second husband and, surrounded by a coterie of flamboyant young men, became increasingly cloistered - receiving visitors in a 'throne' room; a strange echo of the last days of her childhood heroine, the last empress of China.

Though her work has now fallen out of fashion, in her day Pearl Buck was a phenomenal bestseller.

The novel that made her name was "The Good Earth" which depicted for the first time the gruelling conditions of China's rural poor.

Born to Presbyterian missionaries in 1890s China, Buck's first hand experience of the language and people informed her writing and helped to change Western perceptions of that country forever; in recognition of which she won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938.

Abridger: Alison Joseph.

Producer: Kirsteen Cameron.

As she enters a frail old age, Pearl Buck continues to shock and surprise her friends."