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A Thousand Acres: A Novel by Jane Smiley

A Thousand Acres: A Novel (original 1991; edition 2003)

by Jane Smiley

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4,272None1,156 (3.7)187
Title:A Thousand Acres: A Novel
Authors:Jane Smiley
Info:Anchor (2003), Edition: Reprint, Paperback
Collections:Your library, Prize-winners
Tags:Pulitzer prize, Family drama, Small town USA, Fiction

Work details

A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley (1991)

20th century (43) abuse (15) America (17) American (61) American fiction (29) American literature (40) contemporary (17) contemporary fiction (28) family (108) farm (33) farming (78) fiction (757) incest (16) Iowa (107) King Lear (87) literature (36) Midwest (37) novel (121) own (31) paperback (17) Pulitzer (91) Pulitzer Prize (111) Pulitzer Prize Winner (25) read (60) sexual abuse (24) Shakespeare (39) sisters (45) to-read (61) unread (28) USA (27)
  1. 50
    King Lear by William Shakespeare (browner56)
    browner56: The original and a modern retelling of a powerful story involving some very strong women
  2. 10
    Plainsong by Kent Haruf (lyzadanger)
    lyzadanger: Similar treatment of broad-open landscapes and middle American family values.

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English (61)  French (2)  Swedish (1)  All languages (64)
Showing 1-5 of 61 (next | show all)
[A Thousand Acres] starts out as a vignette of a modern farm family - husbands and father successfully working the land, daughters leading the kind of hard-working farm wife existence so admired by their neighbors. The picturesque existence quickly unravels as tensions buried (and not so) are uncovered, a prodigal son returns to the neighborhood, a key family member succumbs to madness as another fights cancer and a third finds life hard to reconcile with past dreams.

The story is a masterful deconstruction of the life of a family, a farm, a community, and the threads that hold them together. Its awards are well deserved, its characters memorable. Recommended. ( )
  wareagle78 | Mar 31, 2014 |
You know a book is good when immediately after finishing it you grab the source material (King Lear) to extend your pleasure from it just a little longer. I hadn't previously read King Lear, and this re imagining was absolutely spellbinding to me.

Shakespeare's high drama plot benefits from this novel's extra scope for character development. Family relationships are nothing if not complicated, and each character relates to the others with a blend of love and resentment that drives the novel. The farm setting was the perfect modern equivalent to a kingdom- the father is passing down both freedoms and responsibilities, making for a challenging inheritance. Loved the narrator and the limitation of only seeing her perspective. It made it feel more like an experience than a story.

Read if you are interested in family dynamics, farm life, personal motivations. If we were friends, I would have pressed it into your hands with a crazed look in my eye as soon as I finished so I could have someone to obsess about it with. ( )
  whiteroseyes | Mar 30, 2014 |
Ginny and Rose are sisters, both married, and living and helping on the family farm. When their father suggests signing a contract to hand the land over to the two of them, plus a third sister, who has moved away to become a lawyer, Ginny learns much about her family and herself.

I don't want to give too much away in the synopsis, but I thought a TON of stuff happened in this book. I found it very interesting and things (surprising things) kept happening one after the other! At first, I thought that I might have a bit more of an interest because I grew up in a farming community - and maybe that helped a bit, but once the story gets going, I think so much more is going on, that you don't have to have that background to get interested in the book. Really good book, and very well written, I thought. ( )
  LibraryCin | Feb 18, 2014 |
Not long ago, I read The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, which for all its virtues, retold with a bit too much fidelity the essential plot of Shakespeare's Hamlet. The effect of that conformity to a story that most readers know well was to undercut the novel's surprises and drama. It also impelled the characters to behave in ways that sometimes turned a blind eye to psychological explanation and common sense, because ultimately the author had to reckon with his source material.

With that in mind, I began A Thousand Acres with a small amount of trepidation. Using the plot and characters of King Lear as inspiration, this tale of a Midwestern patriarch's attempt to confer ownership of the family farm on this three daughters could have stuck close to the Shakespearean story and suffered from some of the same faults. But instead Jane Smiley took the situation and some of the tragedy of the tale, then rotated the point of view to one of the daughters and layered on characterizations that set these particular characters, not their literary forebears, on their own particular tragic paths.

Smiley also makes her setting more than a mythic background. She explores both the pleasures and pains of farm life, and she exposes some aspects of the underside of small-town life. Her feminine perspective gives an important slant on these topics, taking the viewpoint of someone forced into a secondary role in a burdensome life she did not choose. She also provides a clear-eyed, elegiac view of the fate of the family farm at a time when corporate agribusiness was putting an end to a way of life. ( )
  phredfrancis | Feb 8, 2014 |
Painful to read, but also compelling and written with an obvious respect for and knowledge of farm life. ( )
  thatotter | Feb 4, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 61 (next | show all)
Does this sound familiar?

At the opening of Jane Smiley's latest novel, "A Thousand Acres," the narrator, a woman named Virginia Cook Smith, describes the farm in Zebulon County, Iowa, that she and her two younger sisters, Rose and Caroline, have grown up on: "Paid for, no encumbrances, as flat and fertile, black, friable and exposed as any piece of land on the face of the earth."

And then comes the shock of recognition. In 1979, the three sisters' father, Laurence (Larry) Cook, decides to form a corporation out of his farm holdings and give each of his daughters a third of it. What do they think of the plan? "It's a good idea," says the oldest, who is called Ginny. "It's a great idea," says the second daughter, Rose. "I don't know," says the youngest, Caroline, who is a lawyer.

"You don't want it, my girl, you're out," says Larry to Caroline. "It's as simple as that." So the farm is divided into two instead of three, with Ginny and Rose to take turns looking after Larry. And a tragedy of ingratitude, madness and generational conflict begins. . . .

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To Steve, as simple as that
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At sixty miles per hour, you could pass our farm in a minute, on County Road 686, which ran due north into the T intersection at Cabot Street Road.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0449907481, Paperback)

Aging Larry Cook announces his intention to turn over his 1,000-acre farm--one of the largest in Zebulon County, Iowa--to his three daughters, Caroline, Ginny and Rose. A man of harsh sensibilities, he carves Caroline out of the deal because she has the nerve to be less than enthusiastic about her father's generosity. While Larry Cook deteriorates into a pathetic drunk, his daughters are left to cope with the often grim realities of life on a family farm--from battering husbands to cutthroat lenders. In this winner of the 1991 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, Smiley captures the essence of such a life with stark, painful detail.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:17:42 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Dark truths and long-suppressed emotions come to the surface in 1979 when a successful Iowa farmer decides to cut one of his daughters out of his will.

(summary from another edition)

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