A Prodigy Seeks to Know, Feel, Understand
This is certainly a different type of writing than Pearl Buck usually wrote in her novels, which were about Chinese people, how they lived or survived, their emotions and depth of character. This story commences with this unusual description of an experience developing, which the reader eventually realizes is a fetus in the womb. From the time of this baby’s birth, whose name is Randolph Colfax, Rann for short, it is obvious that he is a child prodigy who wants to learn about everything everywhere instantly. His mother feels inadequate and is, but the father is a professor at the university and he understands. Thus he encourages Rann’s seeking and by three years old, Ran can read, use a dictionary and then a set of encyclopedia. But he is so different that other children ignore him and his father tells him that is the way his life would be.
As long as his father was alive, Rann was content, but his father died and Rann was adrift. Rann was not interested in girls or sex and by age fifteen was attending college. He met a teacher there, not much older himself and they had long intellectual conversations. He was able to meet Rann on the same level as his deceased father, but this professor was gay, which Rann knew nothing about and was shocked and angry when the professor groped him while he was asleep. His mother explained.
Rann went to visit his grandfather, who was advanced mentally like Rann and provided the funds for Rann to travel. His grandfather spent some time in China and his manservant was Chinese, which caused Rann to want to see China one say. In his travels, and he is still a teenager, he meets an older woman, Lady Mary, a widow, who introduces Rann to sex, which became an obsession with Rann until he realized she was just satiating her own sexual needs. He left her suddenly and went to Paris where he met a beautiful young woman, Stephanie, half Chinese and half American, but having been raised in Paris, prefers to speak French. She is intellectually advanced and they fall in love with her. All of these years, Rann attempts to discover himself and how he fits in the world. Eventually he quits his extensive reading to learn about life and realizes he can discover more through studying real people.
In the second part of the book when he is drafted into the military and sent to Korea, his voice and persona are entirely different, which is shocking to the reader and that part of the book is rather unsatisfactory and rushed.
However, this book is so different, although it isn’t really the voice of Pearl Buck, yet I enjoyed it, although it does stretch the reader’s imagination.