Buck was a professor at the University of Nanking. This book does not come up to Bucks usual standards. This book is almost forgotten, which is no surprise considering it was not Bucks best works, but the message of the book is important.
A departure from writing about the lives of Chinses peasant farmers, The Hidden Flower is the story of an American US Army officer, Allen Kennedy, in occupied Japan at the end of WWII, and a local Japanese girl, Josui Sakai, of a good family. They cannot live in Japan so they travel to the US expecting open arms of Allens family but find raw prejudices AND a law in Virginia, Allens home state, that prohibits whites from marrying people of color.
So when Josui meets and falls in love with a handsome young American officer named Allen Kennedy, it is not well received by her family. I love finding books by famous authors when the individual work itself is relatively unheard of. I think that this book has to contain one of the worst romance stories I have ever read. Josui meets an American officer, Allen, one day while walking to school. With all his heart." And this is within the first few hours that Allen has ever met Josui. The author builds up a grand romance in the character's heads, but this is firmly where it stays - in their delusional minds. So, he goes about marrying (and telling himself that he is passionately in love with) the very first high-born, traditional Japanese girl he meets. When Allen's mother invites him home for Christmas, but refuses again to let Josui come visit, he simply goes without her. One day, after Josui has secretly met with Allen, her father says to her "Something has happened.
I read the other reviews and I understand that most people don't find this an enticing love story.
In the book, The Hidden Flower, the look of love was on American, First Sergeant, Allen Kennedys face the moment he saw the beautiful, refined, 20-year-old, college student, Josei Sakai. Instead of being interned, fifteen-year-old Josei and her parents, Dr. and Mrs. Sakai, relocated to Japan. Josei and Allen were married in a Buddhist ceremony in Japan, attended by her parents and their maid. But in Virginia, Mrs. Kennedy, a Christian, did not accept the Buddhist ceremony, nor Joseis presence in her home. He loved Josei, but conflicted, he missed not living in the Kennedy home, in his rooms in the spacious mansion.
On the surface one may think it's a more sensitive take on the East-West star-crossed lovers theme Michener explored in "Sayonara" although Buck's book predates that one by a year or two. But it can also be viewed as an examination of the parallels between class and race found in the United States and Japan, which would have been interesting if the author really cared (I don't think she did) and if Buck's seemingly progressive views on the issues were not marred by quaint 1950s racism she takes for granted.
But his parents have their own idea of perfection: plans of a marriage with a certain American woman and living in their small Virginian town in their own mansion.
The ending was unsatisfying and one was left feeling that their bold decisions made in the name of love were folly.
In this novel, she slowly unravels the passions, realities, and subtle racism that come into play when an American serviceman falls for a college student from a prominent but conquered Japanese family. Josui Sakai, the daughter of a prominent doctor in Kyoto, sits uncomfortably between the American culture of her youth (she grew up in California until War War II began) and the Japanese culture so revered in Kyoto, where her father moved the family rather than be sent to an internment camp in the US.
For her body of work, Buck was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938, the first American woman to have done so.