Ambassador of Books ~ Book Club Madam ~ Blogger Gal

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Good Earth

I finally finished The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck. I don't remember where I heard about this classic novel but I decided it was something that I had to read. Plus is counts toward the Historical Fiction Challenge. :)

First off, the style takes a bit of getting used to. I've never read anything else by this author so I don't know if this is her typical style or just the way she decided to write this book; either way, it was a little strange at first.

Wang Lung is a man living a poor farmer's life in early 19o0s China. Over time, through hard work and always holding on to his land, he becomes a wealthy man living in the town. He has two wives and several children. Although there are many hardships his refusal to sell his land sees him through and allows his family to prosper.

The story is told by a narrator who merely states what the main character thinks, says, and does. Ok, it doesn't sound so odd when I put it like that ... maybe I should say that this book was very 'dry' ... that might be the right world. To me it was a passionless telling of a man's life and his connection to his land. But having said that, I did actually like this book!

There are no judgments made in this book, although as a reader I found myself judging many things. The culture was just so different from what I know! I find it fascinating that a white female author in the 1930s could capture the Chinese culture without judging it in the least bit. The treatment of women and children, the starvation, the choices the family made to survive ... all these aspects of the novel are presented dispassionately to the reader.

I don't really know what to say about this book. I DID like it, but it was very dry and passionless ... which - if I read that in a review - would make me NOT want to read this book! Before you make up your mind about this book, check out some of the other reviews I found:

Lotus Reads draws an excellent conclusion about the meaning of the title ...
I think Pearl Buck meant the land to serve as a metaphor for one's value system, one's traditions. As long as Wang Lung stayed close to the land and tended to it himself, he was a morally upright man, but the minute he strayed away from it or handed over the tending to outsiders, his morals started to waiver. I think Wang Lung always knew that deep down inside and that's why he clung to his land
In Spring It Is The Dawn also has a review, and you can even listen to several readers review it on The Diane Rehm Show.

I didn't know that this is the first book of a trilogy. The second book, Sons, follows Wang Lung's 3 sons after their father's death. The final book, A House Divided, is the story of Wang Lung's grandchildren during a revolution in China.

There are several fascinating quotes by the author on Oprah's book club website ... come to find out, this was one of her book club picks. Hmmm ... not sure what I think about that.

If you've reviewed this book, let me know and I'll add your link in here.


Anonymous said...

This book is my mom's very favorite and I've read it a couple of times and enjoyed it. However, I would agree with you. It isn't the most exciting book in the world, yet somehow it is still engaging. If I'm not mistaken, there's actually a movie of this book (I think I watched it in like 7th grade). Of course, the whole 'not very exciting' thing doesn't work that well on film...

tanabata said...

I hadn't known it was the first in a trilogy either until I read it. I haven't got around to reading the other 2 books but I'd like to someday. I've added your link to my review.

Anonymous said...

She spent most of her life in China and therefore was very likely to have an unbiased if not favorable view of the country. She even said herself that all she knew was China so naturally she wrote about it.

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