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

by Jane Smiley

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,415731,110 (3.71)211
Member:gaskella
Title:A Thousand Acres: A Novel
Authors:Jane Smiley
Info:Anchor (2003), Edition: Reprint, Paperback
Collections:Your library, Prize-winners
Rating:
Tags:Pulitzer prize, Family drama, Small town USA, Fiction

Work details

A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley (1991)

  1. 60
    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.
  3. 11
    An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro (sturlington)
    sturlington: Father-daughter relationships
  4. 00
    The Lobster Kings by Alexi Zentner (kjgormley)
    kjgormley: They are both King Lear retellings.
  5. 00
    The Corrections: A Novel by Jonathan Franzen (sturlington)
    sturlington: Parent-adult children relationships
  6. 02
    Howards End by E. M. Forster (sturlington)
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Showing 1-5 of 69 (next | show all)
I knew nothing about the plot of King Lear but as this novel is based on it, I did hurry off and google it. Crikey, what a convoluted story! I was glad this was easier to follow, though it did add an interesting element to my reading of it - trying to figure out who was being represented by which of the characters.

It's a long, dense book. There is a tendency for dramatic events - and there are quite a few - to be described in advance in quite bland simple terms, only for the following chapters to go over them in forensic detail. It was exciting enough to keep me reading, but there were times, wading through another paragraph of navel gazing psychoanalysis, when I wondered if it had to be quite so long winded.

It's highly instructive as to the ways of the farming communities of North America - not something I'm much of an expert on, and I was glad of the education. ( )
  jayne_charles | Feb 11, 2015 |
Reading this book produced many conflicting reactions for me. I was predisposed to like it after loving Smiley's book, The Greenlanders. I knew this would be very different but I immediately found that I still loved her writing style. Her language is restrained but beautiful at the same time and descriptive without being flowery. The premise of this novel is sort of a King Lear retelling. An Iowa farmer who has amassed 1000 acres of farm land decides to divide the farm between his three daughters during his lifetime. His youngest daughter rejects the idea and he, in turn, cuts her out of the deal. At the same time this is happening, a neighboring farmer's son who disappeared to avoid being drafted to the Vietnam war returns to the town. He comes with ideas of organic farming and ends up shaking up his own family (in a prodigal son sort of way) and also shaking up several marriages in the neighboring farms.

Up to this point, I was very interested and engaged, but though I knew everything was going down hill, I was not prepared for the nasty turn that some (actually most) of the characters would take. A little over half way through the book, I was so sickened by the characters who were either despicable people or horribly damaged people that I did not want to pick up the book. I really don't like reading books where everyone is miserable and also are bad people. But I kept going and in the end I'm glad I finished it. There isn't much redemption for any of the characters and there's no way to wrap up neatly what happens in this book, but I appreciated the writing and character development (even though I didn't like the characters) and it did leave me thinking. It's certainly a memorable book, though it's not really leaving me wanting to rush out and read more of Jane Smiley's work.

I'm edging on the high side with my star rating because I think that down the road my opinion will improve. We shall see. ( )
1 vote japaul22 | Dec 13, 2014 |
I tried really hard because this was supposed to be a great book that everybody loved, but I was bored. I hated all the characters and by page 207 nothing had actually happened yet, so I put it down. ( )
  LAKobow | Nov 10, 2014 |
This novel of life on a farm in the plains is unforgettable for me. It seems like they have very plain, farmy lives until secrets start to come out. ( )
  saradiann | Jun 29, 2014 |
Read for my first book club. ( )
  EllenH | Jun 17, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 69 (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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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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