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A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
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A Thousand Acres

by Jane Smiley

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,0761051,272 (3.72)330
  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. 20
    Plainsong by Kent Haruf (lyzadanger)
    lyzadanger: Similar treatment of broad-open landscapes and middle American family values.
  3. 10
    The Lobster Kings by Alexi Zentner (kjgormley)
    kjgormley: They are both King Lear retellings.
  4. 01
    1606 : William Shakespeare and the year of Lear by James Shapiro (amarie)
    amarie: Insight into King Lear source and everything else happening that year.
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» See also 330 mentions

English (101)  French (2)  Swedish (1)  All languages (104)
Showing 1-5 of 101 (next | show all)
A very vivid and well-written book showcasing a rural farming community in Iowa. I did not really want to give it four stars as I could have faced this better as history or sociology than as fiction. I hope it was well researched and based in truth as the picture given showed abuse of all kinds as normal and supported by the community through the isolation of each family. The wider community certainly existed but serving only to assist the already powerful and suppress the human rights of all other individuals. ( )
  Ma_Washigeri | May 27, 2018 |
Excerpts from my original GR review (Mar 2012):
- ..1991 novel of family infighting, set on a huge farm in fictional Zebulon County Iowa, circa 1979. It won her the Pulitzer..
- Near the outset of the story, Larry Cook, long widowed patriarch of the 1000 acre family spread, has suddenly decided to pass along ownership to his three daughters... It is soon clear that his impulsive imperative has set in motion the emergence of family suspicions, resentfulness, and long-concealed grievances.
- Smiley inexorably unfolds for the reader the simmering frictions between spouses, as well as the darker, more malignant issues you feel bubbling to the surface between father and daughters. Ginny relates the story in that uniquely first-person angle that provides the emotional investment the reader doesn't always get with third-person. We experience her evolving relationship with Rose, tough, shirtsleeve-emotioned cancer survivor, whom Ginny has held in obeisance for most of her life. Rose shines the light on sinister truths regarding Larry Cook, the most opprobrious of which may apply to their childhood.
- The third, and youngest, daughter, Caroline, has long past moved on, earning a legal degree and taking a decidedly non-agrarian direction in life... She charms and maneuvers her way back into daddy's good favor.. Unscarred by the same wounds of Rose and Ginny, she fails to understand the disrespect and even contempt shown toward Cook.
-Even given the disintegration of family relations, the novel has time to develop other, yes, dark narratives. Rose's husband Pete has his own demons to face... Another topic invoked is that of poisonous farming practices of the 20th century, whose effects likely burden the fates of both Ginny and Rose. Not all turns out to be entirely redemptive, but I think this is a very well written story, fueled by sharp dialogue and filled with realistic, all-too-human characters. ( )
  ThoughtPolice | Apr 3, 2018 |
From Amazon:

This powerful twentieth-century reimagining of Shakespeare’s King Lear centers on a wealthy Iowa farmer who decides to divide his farm between his three daughters. When the youngest objects, she is cut out of his will. This sets off a chain of events that brings dark truths to light and explodes long-suppressed emotions. Ambitiously conceived and stunningly written, A Thousand Acres takes on themes of truth, justice, love, and pride—and reveals the beautiful yet treacherous topography of humanity.

Why I wanted to read it: It called out to me from a shelf at Scuppernong Books in Greensboro.

I can see why this book won the Pulitzer Prize. It is beautifully and powerfully written from the viewpoint of one of the daughters, Ginny, the eldest, least ambitious, and most timorous of the three sisters. She is a combination of insightful and willfully blind.

I didn’t realize until after I’d finished it and read A Conversation with Jane Smiley by Ron Fletcher in the back of the book that it is a retelling of King Lear. This just proves that I’ve never read King Lear because the story was unknown to me and didn’t ring any Shakespearean bells.

There was an overwhelming sense of doom and futility throughout. There was also an amazing sense of the land and the people who farm it. Strong, dedicated, hard-working; also insular, taciturn, and private.

This book begs to be re-read. ( )
3 vote karenmarie | Feb 6, 2018 |
A literary tour de force and a gripping story. ( )
  sianpr | Jan 15, 2018 |
Wow. I did not see that coming. What a sad degeneration of what seemed to be such a happy and successful family. I'm sure many can relate.

I didn't realize until I finish this novel that it is a modern rendition of King Lear. Although I'm not familiar with King Lear, I wish I had known, because I would have understood better why Smiley's characters were being held to certain behaviors. I started out liking the characters, but about mid-way I started to feel a little lost. I didn't understand the turn some of the characters took, and really didn't understand what was creating the breakdown in the relationships, especially between Ginny and her husband. It seemed like people went off the deep end over minor issues, ultimately caused by the father's increasing dementia. (Jeez, folks -- get a diagnosis!) I started getting annoyed with them, and Ginny in particular. I just wanted to reach into the pages and give her a good slap! She'd have been better called Ninny: spineless, weak, and ugly to the core. And seriously unbalanced.

Still, it's a great story and well written. It reminded me a lot of White Oleander, but less dark. It kept me intellectually and emotionally involved, while still keeping the pages turning. Just what I was looking for. ( )
  Lit_Cat | Dec 9, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 101 (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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Epigraph
The body repeats the landscape. They are the source of each other and create each other. We were marked by the seasonal body of earth, by the terrible migrations of people, by the swift turn of a century, verging on change never before experienced on this greening planet.

-- Meridel Le Sueur, "The Ancient People and the Newly Come"
Dedication
To Steve, as simple as that
First words
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 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.

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