|Book Reveiw 6-21
Sunday, November 11, 2007
By Denise Turney
This classic is as rich with tension and juxtaposition as it was the day it was released. The Rainbow is a book about relationships. It takes its readers to the core of the motivations couples use to continue brief and long term intimate connections. The Rainbow starts with Henry Potter dealing with particulars of the businesses that he owns. Over the years Henry Potter has become a wealthy businessman. The senior managers who work beneath him accept his decisions without argument. Henry Potter is a man in charge. He and his wife of many years live in a large, well kept home. They have servants and don’t have to work if they don’t want to. They travel the world and learn of various cultures up close. There is nothing Henry Potter and his wife desire that can be obtained with money that they have to do without. Yet, Henry Potter is bored. For Henry and his wife of many years, a slight woman named Ethel, life has become a series of patterns. At fifty years old, for Henry Potter life had become painfully predictable.
One of the patterns that Henry and his wife, Ethel, have settled into is the habit of going to the theatre. As if there is a force moving behind the scenes, for once and after years of frequenting the theatre with his beautiful wife, Henry Potter actually pays attention to the play. And because he pays attention Henry Potter decides that he is fed up with going to plays. Henry Potter decides that all of the plays that he and Ethel see at the top theatre houses are the same. Except for the change in the characters’ names and the color of the costumes, each play has the same serving of sex and violence. It is too much, and so Henry Potter tells his wife that he is going to leave the theatre and go to the restaurant next door. At the end of the play, he tells Ethel that he will return and get her so their chauffeur can drive them home.
What takes place while Henry Potter is at the restaurant impacts the rest of the story. It also changes Henry and Ethel’s relationship.
The skill of Pearl S. Buck, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Rainbow, is evident from the start. Her style is simple yet powerful. Pearl S. Buck does not write to impress; Pearl S. Buck writes to entertain. Her mastery of the written language is so strong that The Rainbow influences its readers in a way books rarely do. What happens to Henry Potter and his wife, who has but a brief presence in the entire book, and the people around them, is indicative of how evasive changes of the mind and especially of the heart are. A decision that Henry Potter makes while he is at the restaurant brings people into his life that he likely would never have met. Not only does Henry interact with these people, some of them coming to him in the form of strong temptation, Henry watches how these people relate to one another. He watches how these people hurt, and, as if they were resigned to live the same days over and over absent change, accept one another’s bad habits. These observations change Henry. The distractions and upheaval these people push inside Henry Potter’s life leave little room or time for boredom.
It is hard to see how deeply Pearl S. Buck pulls the reader inside the story until the last page. A longing for more of Henry, Ethel and the other cast of characters in The Rainbow may very likely ensue. The characters in the pages of The Rainbow are real. Pearl S. Buck sees to that. Even more than a deep connection between the book’s characters and the book’s readers are the relationship lessons The Rainbow imparts. And it is these combined benefits, as well as the stroke of a masterful writer’s story telling style, that makes The Rainbow a most rewarding read.