Looking for Historical Fiction Set on a Farm, or with Farming as a backdrop.
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I am researching for a book and a photographic project and would enjoy learning about Farm life through some well-written novels.
Any of the "Little House" books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. They're some of the best books on American frontier/farm life out there with tons of details of farm life. The first eight are full of hardship, but have a positive attitude. The final one The First Four Years is much darker, as Laura starts her married life and they suffer drought, hail, fire and the death of their first child. Have fun!
Does it matter where in the world? For my money it's hard to beat Thomas Hardy for well-written novels with agricultural settings. But he's perhaps not much use to you if you're specifically interested in American farms. Novels set on farms are often set in the fairly recent past - even in Hardy the novels are rarely set more than a generation or so before the time of writing. (Some agrinovels are even set in the future, e.g. the wonderful Cold Comfort Farm.) As far as I remember, the "Little House" books were based on the author's experiences in her own lifetime, so they aren't historical fiction.
I don't think there is that much historical fiction, in the usual sense, that focusses on farming - when farms come up, it's usually in the background of other events. For instance, there are a few very interesting chapters in Scott's Guy Mannering that are set on a sheep farm in the Borders, but most of the book is about gypsies, astrologers, smugglers and the finer points of Scottish law. The main exceptions tend to be the multi-generation epics set in tough, remote parts of the world (especially Russia, Sweden, Africa, Australia, South America...).
Maybe you could count some of Annie Proulx's books as historical fiction? - she does sometimes go back a couple of generations, and certainly writes a lot about American farmers and the lives they lead.
You could try this Tagmash: http://www.librarything.com/tag/farming,+historical+fiction - lots of Steinbeck, Willa Cather and Pearl S. Buck there, for example.
Some classics include A Lantern in Her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich and Giants in the Earth by O.E. Rolvaag. There's also a story (novella?) called Sweet Land by Will Weaver that was made into a movie.
Not sure if this will work, but you can also do a tag search on my library for "agricultural" for nonfiction. The works of Jerold W. Apps and Eric Sloane are also worth a look.
If you're interested in reading classic literature rather than historical fiction, I second the recommendation of Thomas Hardy. I'll also add Anna Karenina--there are sections on farming in there that a lot of readers find tedious, but that I found utterly fascinating. My grandfather was a wealthy farmer in Russia before the Russian Revolution, so I felt like I was learning his personal history when I read those sections. Another classic that has a farm setting is Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton.
We have all gone Awayis a true story of a family where the children grow up on a farm, but all of them move to the city.
Jane Smiley's 1,000 Acres is about life on a farm,
Patricia Penton Leimbach has written a series of essays on her years as a farmer's wife near Lorain, OH A Thread of Blue Denim All my Meadows & Harvest of Bittersweet
The Sojourner by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings is set on a farm in the 19th century.
It's YA, but Hattie Big Sky comes to mind. Very Little House, but written for readers that are a bit older.
A good bit of World Without End is about farming and how the surfs were forced to do specific kinds of labor for the nobility.
I agree with the comment about World Without End, The House of Allerbrook also has some portion set on the land with some focus on the common farmers and workers. Tiger Hills is a well written book set in 1878 on coffee farms in India. A Death in the Mountains is a true story of the Murder of a Italian farmer that reads more like a novel.
If you are interested in farming in North Dakota in the early 20th c., you might enjoy Nothing to Do But Stay by Carrie Young. It's about Norwegian and Swedish pioneers on the plains and has a "I Remember Mama" feel to it.
The first part of my book is set on farms. It's in the Gret American Depression, near Oklahoma City. There were a lot of books written about farms then, what about John Steinbeck and The Grapes of Wrath? My book is A Healing Place. The family moves on somewhere else and the son-in-law eventually goes to WWII, but the important part of the book is the Depression, showing how hard it was on the farm. Not only did nothing grow, their were dust clouds so thick that you couldn't see in front of your face. Scorpions, grasshoppers, all kinds of insects began to attack the houses, even eating the wallpaper. Children were lost in the dust clouds and many people ended up with lung diseases like you find in miners' lungs. The sad part was the eviction of so many people before Congress decided to step in and teach the farmers how to properly plow their fields. Joyce Shaughnessy
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