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Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
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Good Earth (edition 2011)

by Pearl S. Buck

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9,519187304 (4.06)518
Member:Jessicah16
Title:Good Earth
Authors:Pearl S. Buck
Info:Amereon Ltd (2011), Hardcover, 269 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
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Work details

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

  1. 80
    Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A Novel by Lisa See (mcenroeucsb)
    mcenroeucsb: Both are well-written novels set in late 19th/early 20th century China.
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    The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (John_Vaughan)
  3. 51
    East of Eden by John Steinbeck (John_Vaughan)
  4. 30
    Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (Ellen_Elizabeth)
    Ellen_Elizabeth: Another classic, historical fiction novel that explores a traditional culture through the story of one man and his family. Both were written in English and illustrate the author's perceived strengths and weaknesses of the subject culture in a way that is accessible to western readers.… (more)
  5. 20
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    deeyes: Dragon seed is similar but better pearl buck book
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1930s (36)
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Showing 1-5 of 179 (next | show all)
At the beginning of the 20th century, Wang Lung and his aging father are the only living members of their family. They own a small plot of land that they farm in rural China. The novel takes place over most of the rest of Wang Lung's life as he marries, raises children, suffers through droughts and floods that destroy his crops and leave his family starving, and finally, becomes wealthy through the purchase of more and more farm land.

I really enjoymost of Buck's novels. I know this is her most popular by far, but I was disappointed. Apart from the fact that this was one of her first books to be published, I'm not sure why this is the one that has stuck in people's minds instead of The Living Reed or Command the Morning, both of which I think are better. I realize that the slice of Chinese culture that was portrayed here is quite different from contemporary American culture, but I had a hard time liking Wang Lung. The many flaws in his character and his inconsistency outweighed the strengths in his character for me. It also took me a while to get used to the simplicity of the writing, which may very well have been a brillliant choice on the part of the author given that the book was about poor, ignorant peasants, but it made the book less enjoyable for me.

Overall, there's a lot to appreciate about the book (the historical aspects, the intimate look at a different culture and way of life, the potential religious symbolism if you want to look at it through that lense), which is why I bumped my rating up to four stars, but I just didn't enjoy reading this book as much as I have some of Buck's others and would have to give it three stars for enjoyment alone. ( )
  AmandaL. | Jan 16, 2016 |
Few authors have captured the inner desires and turbulent egos that move a person to action as has Pearl S. Buck in her masterpiece "The Good Earth." Wang Lung's story shows that even in striving towards a simple purpose, there is no such thing as a simple existence. The most moving part of the work is her portrayal of how ambitions move into our lives, and overtake the course we are on. How our insecurities can move us to pride; desire to cruelty; fear to greed. ( )
  Alidawn | Jan 14, 2016 |
Audio book performed by Anthony Heald

This is an epic tale of the peasant farmer Wang Lung and his family. The novel opens on his wedding day. Living alone with aging widowed father, he is the only surviving son and they barely eke out a living on their small piece of land. But despite their poverty he finally asks, “Am I not to have a woman?” and so his marriage to O-Lan, a kitchen slave in a great house, is arranged. It’s a good union, despite the lack of an emotional attachment between them, and they share a determination and willingness to work hard. Their harvest is good in that first year, and their first child is a boy. When O-Lan returns to the great house to show the old mistress her first-born son, she notices signs of economic distress. She mentions this to Wang Lung and he takes advantage of the opportunity to buy more land. And so they begin to build their life of prosperity.

The novel spans about fifty years, and they were times of upheaval in China – the Boxer rebellion, the Russo-Japanese war, the end of the Qing dynasty, and the beginnings of the Chinese Nationalist Party. But Wang Lung, like many rural Chinese, remains largely unaware of these larger political events, and focused on his own personal struggles.

Buck’s characters are wonderfully drawn. She reveals the many facets of their character through their thoughts and actions over the years. They deal with the usual changes and trials in any life – aging parents, death of loved ones, raising children, teen rebellion, angry relatives, petty jealousies and major disappointments. They also endure famine, war, displacement, and plagues. The one constant for Wang Lung and O-Lan, however, is their firm belief in the land – that good earth which they faithfully tend and which, in turn, nourishes and sustains them.

Wang Lung is a complex man – simple and unassuming at the outset, tender and caring with his children, angry and spiteful with his enemies, brash and lashing out when he gives in to temptation, ashamed and quieted when he realizes what he may lose, and finally dignified and at peace as he looks back on his life and ponders his own end.

Buck writes in a very simple style, with few complex sentences, and only enough description to set the scene. The result is a story that feels current and immediate; the reader experiences the events along with Wang Lung, O-Lan and the other characters. It is very similar to an oral tradition of story-telling, where the plot is the most important element.

Anthony Heald does a fine job performing the audio. His voice is a little rough for the female characters, but I was impressed with how he “aged” Wang Lung through the course of the book – taking him from a 20-something young man to a man of 70.
( )
  BookConcierge | Jan 13, 2016 |
I was lent this book by a coworker and I had no idea what to expect. It didn't take long for me to fall in love with The Good Earth, and for the book to become unputdownable. (Is that even a word)

I loved Buck's terse writing, it went with the characters and fitted the situation that the family lived in. Wang Lung was a touch character to really love - especially with his treatment of O Lan. However, I think he mostly just wanted his family to be hapy and get what they wanted. He wanted peace in his house, but sometimes had odd ways about trying to achieve it.

My heart cried for Olan so many times. She was selfless and smart and loved her family in her own quiet way. I couldn't stand that Wang Lung took another woman and I really couldn't understand how a clear medical problem was left so long. Olan had a short and mostly sad life, I wanted so much more for her. It was really rather frustrating.

When I read historical fiction it tends to be about Europe and now after reading this I feel that I might be missing a real trick here. While this is certainly not an education book, it is a book that you can learn from and I highly recomend it. ( )
  sscarllet | Dec 15, 2015 |
“It is the end of a family- when they begin to sell their land. Out of the land we came and into we must go - and if you will hold your land you can live- no one can rob you of land.”

The book is set in turn-of-the-century China when Chinese society is showing signs of modernization while remaining deeply connected to ancient traditions and customs. Wang Lung is a poor farmer and when he reaches a marriageable age, his father approaches the powerful local Hwang family to ask for a slave to marry his son.So Wang marries O-lan.

Together, Wang Lung and O-lan cultivate their land and produce a profitable harvest. Wang Lung is hard working and not frivolous with his money. In contrast the powerful Hwang waste their wealth and fall on hard times enabling Wang Lung to purchase a piece of their land. More profitable harvests follow and Wang Lung is able to purchase yet more land.

When a terrible famine settles on the land Wang Lung is forced to take his family to a southern city. There O-lan and the children beg while Wang Lung earns money by transporting people in a rented rickshaw. All the time Wang Lung retains his land. When a group of desperate people ransacks a rich man’s home, and Wang Lung and O-lan join them. Wang Lung steals a pile of gold coins and O-lan some jewels . With this new wealth the family back home rich and buy yet more land hiring labourers to plant and harvest his land all the time becoming richer still. Whilst Wang Lung is uneducated but is intrinsically linked with the seasons and the very earth. In contrast his sons are educated but the only interest they have in the land is in the money it will generate and the consumables it will buy them. Thus they represent the new rich of China.

Throughout the novel, a connection to the land is associated with moral piety, good sense, respect for nature, and a strong work ethic, while alienation from the land is associated with decadence and corruption. Wang Lung has an intimate relationship with the earth because he produces his harvest through his own labour. In contrast, the local Hwang family is estranged from the earth because their wealth and harvests are produced by hired labour. Buck suggests throughout the book that while human success is transitory, the earth endures forever.

Whilst this book is set in China I feel that these ideas could equally apply to any country in the world as mechanisation means that fewer people work the land with many having no idea how their food is produced or where. So we are becoming ever more mere consumers and are losing that connection land and while it is not necessary so that this directly leads to decadence it is an interesting viewpoint.

Overall I found this a very enjoyable read but would recommend readers take a little time to find out about the author's own life story. It is a extremely remarkable one in itself. ( )
  PilgrimJess | Sep 13, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 179 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Pearl S. Buckprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Heald, AnthonyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
...This was what Vinteuil had done for the little phrase. Swann felt that the composer had been content (with the instruments at his disposal) to draw aside its veil, to make it visible, following and respecting its outlines with a hand so loving, so prudent, so delicate and so sure, that the sound altered at every moment, blunting itself to indicate a shadow, springing back into life when it must follow the curve of some more bold projection. And one proof that Swann was not mistaken when believed in the real existence of this phrase was that anyone with an ear at all delicate for music would have at once detected the imposture had Vinteuil, endowed with less power to see and to render its forms, sought to dissemble (by adding a line, here and there, of his own invention) the dimness of his vision or the feebleness of his hand. -- Swann's Way, by Marcel Proust
Dedication
First words
It was Wang Lung's marriage day.
Quotations
He had no articulate thought of anything; there was only this perfect sympathy of movement, of turning this earth of theirs over and over to the sun, this earth which formed their home and fed their bodies and made their gods. The earth lay rich and dark, and fell apart lightly under the points of their hoes, Sometimes they turned up a bit of brick, a splinter of wood. It was nothing. Sometimes, in some age, bodies of men and women had been buried there, houses had stood there, had fallen, and gone back into the earth. So would also their house, sometime, return into the earth, their bodies also. Each had his turn at this earth. They worked on, moving together – together – producing the fruit of this earth – speechless in their movement together.
…he said nothing still, she looked at him piteously and sadly out of her strange dumb eyes that were like a beast’s eyes that cannot speak, and then she went away, creeping and feeling for the door because of her tears that blinded her.

Wang Lung watched her as she went and he was glad to be alone, but still he was ashamed and he was still angry that he was ashamed, and he said to himself, and he muttered the words aloud and restlessly, as though he quarreled with someone, “Well, and other men are so and I have been good enough to her, and there are men worse than I.” And he said at last that O-lan must bear it.
My house and my land it is, and if it were not for the land we should all starve as the others did, and you could not walk about in your dainty robes idle as a scholar. It is the good land that has made you something better than a farmer’s lad.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0743272935, Paperback)

Pearl S. Buck's epic

Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of a China that was

-- now in a Contemporary Classics

edition.

Though more than sixty years have passed

since this remarkable novel won the Pulitzer

Prize, it has retained its popularity and become

one of the great modern classics. "I can only

write what I know, and I know nothing but China,

having always lived there," wrote Pearl Buck. In

The Good Earth she presents a graphic

view of a China when the last emperor reigned

and the vast political and social upheavals of

the twentieth century were but distant rumblings

for the ordinary people. This moving, classic

story of the honest farmer Wang Lung and his

selfless wife O-lan is must reading for those

who would fully appreciate the sweeping changes

that have occurred in the lives of the Chinese

people during this century.

Nobel Prize winner Pearl S. Buck traces the

whole cycle of life: its terrors, its passions,

its ambitions and rewards. Her brilliant novel

-- beloved by millions of readers -- is a

universal tale of the destiny of man.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:23 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Pearl S. Buck's epic Pulitzer prize-winning novel of a China that was now in a contemporary classics edition. Though more than sixty years have passed since this remarkable novel won the Pulitzer prize, it has retained its popularity and become one of the great modern classics. "I can only write what I know, and I know nothing but China, having always lived there," wrote Pearl Buck. In the Good Earth she presents a graphic view of a China when the last emperor reigned and the vast political and social upheavals of the twentieth century were but distant rumblings for the ordinary people. This moving, classic story of the honest farmer Wang Lung and his selfless wife o-lan is must reading for those who would fully appreciate the sweeping changes that have occurred in the lives of the Chinese people during this century. Nobel Prize winner Pearl S. Buck traces the whole cycle of life: its terrors, its passions, its ambitions and rewards. Her brilliant novel, beloved by millions of readers, is a universal tale of the destiny of man. Enduring literature illuminated by practical scholarship a poignant tale about the life and labors of a Chinese farmer during the sweeping reign of the country s last emperor. Each enriched classic edition includes: A concise introduction that gives readers important background information, a chronology of the author's life and work, a timeline of significant events that provides the book's historical context, an outline of key themes and plot points to help readers form their own interpretations, detailed explanatory notes, a critical analysis, including contemporary and modern perspectives on the work, discussion questions to promote lively classroom and book group interaction, a list of recommended related books and films to broaden the reader's experience. Enriched Classics offer readers affordable editions of great works of literature enhanced by helpful notes and insightful commentary. The scholarship provided in Enriched Classics enables readers to appreciate, understand, and enjoy the world's finest books to their full potential. Pulitzer Prize fiction, 1932.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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