Not the first Buck book I have read about China, and certainly not the last. She brings China to life like nothing else.
Persecuted Jews traveled to China over many centuries ago, and they were greeted with much kindness, so they stayed. They tried to hold on to their heritage, but as they assimulated and intermarried into the Chinese culture, that became more and more difficult.
This story takes place at towards the end of their era. A Jewish mother decides that her son should marry the rabbi's daughter to to perpetuate their faith. The son has his eye on a Chinese girl, instead.
Peony is a servant in the household that was raised with the son--and has fallen in love with him. She knows her place in the world, and feels she would be content with just staying in his household the rest of her life. If he marries the Jewish girl, that seems unlikely. Peony does what she can to encourage a Chinese marriage.
The story explores the two cultures as the son is torn between them. It takes some unexpected turns that totally shocked me.
Once again, Ms. Buck hits it out of the park.