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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
4,72193996 (3.71)283
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. 80
    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. 00
    1606 : William Shakespeare and the year of Lear by James Shapiro (amarie)
    amarie: Insight into King Lear source and everything else happening that year.
  4. 00
    The Lobster Kings by Alexi Zentner (kjgormley)
    kjgormley: They are both King Lear retellings.
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» See also 283 mentions

English (89)  French (2)  Swedish (1)  All languages (92)
Showing 1-5 of 89 (next | show all)
Wow!! The drama and impact of this story increases more and more the further you go. The family dynamics of both the Cook family and their nearest neighbors, the Clarks, start off seemingly so smooth and normal and unravel so completely.

Plenty to think about so more may come... ( )
  leslie.98 | Aug 9, 2016 |
Successful farmer with 3 children. At retirement he turns over ownership to 2 of 3 children. He then regrets his choice and sues to get his land back. ( )
  pgabj | Aug 6, 2016 |
This is a wonderful page turner. A very long book, but it is enjoyable every page and Jane Smiley is a great writer.
  Jan7Smith | Jul 19, 2016 |
This is an amazing character-driven story. I remember faintly the decent movie adaptation twenty years ago, but I was much more ready to read it now with greater understanding of life in general and of King Lear especially. But back in Iowa, A Thousand Acres is a family tragedy that I think is probably familiar for so many on American farms. Families have not been able to compete and thrive with the old ways, which rears its head perfectly in the time period of this novel.

As for old Lear, I've now seen the play several times and liked getting to know the blustery old man who learns a very hard lesson. What was fascinating and vital for this retelling was how the author I believe turned almost every character opposite to their play counterpart's traditional interpretation. The good daughter turns out to be petty and naive, the bad daughters are beset by terrible circumstances but work so hard to overcome it all. Even the other families switch places as the moral supporter who is hatefully blinded instead is terrible and calculating even before just an accident.

There is resolution, but like any tragedy, the "stage" is littered with dead bodies and dying dreams. ( )
  amarie | Jun 23, 2016 |
As many reviewers have said: this story starts slow. But I felt that every word was necessary for the incisive portrait Smiley painted of each of the characters. She captures the inner workings of close-mouthed, emotionally repressed farm people so perfectly you feel like you are inside of their skins. There is a subtle genius in the telling of the mundane details of farm life and the way the narrator uses it to hide from her own feelings.

This is a retelling of King Lear, so I was familiar with the basic plot, but I was still anxious to see what would happen next when events started spiraling out of control. I was grouchy every time I had to put it down and couldn’t wait to get back to the story. I look forward to seeing the Jessica Lange movie that was made in the 90s.
( )
  memccauley6 | May 3, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 89 (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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:57:53 -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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