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So Big by Edna Ferber
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So Big (1924)

by Edna Ferber

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English (26)  Spanish (1)  All languages (27)
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One of the few female writers of her time, Edna Ferber brings a fresh perspective of farm life in America during the early 1900s. "So Big" defines the American dream at the time: owning a home, having a happy relationship with family and friends, feeling useful, and- above all- being successful with a solid feeling of self-pride and a sense of accomplishment in life’s journey.

With merely a dozen relevant characters, Edna follows the life story of Selina Peake-DeJong from childhood to her golden years. Selina is a romantic, an idealist, and an optimist. She has a passion for life that often leaves her disappointed because it’s not easy living on her remote country farm in the middle of Illinois with a husband who is not open to change, or to “book reading”, or suggestions on how to improve the output of their 40 acres of sub-prime swampy land.

Selina lives by her father’s insistence that life is one grand adventure. He tells her, “The more kinds of people you see and the more things you do, and the more things that happen to you, the richer you are. Even if there are unpleasant things. That’s living.” Thus, the optimism. She soon realizes that an abundant eagerness to experience life can also lead to impetuous decisions that have life-long consequences.

Her father also professes, “There are only 2 kinds of people who really matter in the world. One kind is wheat and the other is emeralds”. They are both his descriptive metaphors for people; one symbolizing earthly substance, modesty, self-sacrifice and stability. The other shines on peace, balance, and beauty. Selina is wheat- or maybe a combination of both. But her father says nothing to prepare her for dealing with a child who fits either category. Her son is spoiled, has superficial values, and of all the professions available to him at the time... becomes a bond salesman.

One element of the plot that dates the book is the fact that being a “bond salesman” in the early 1920s was considered a lowly profession- almost as bad as being a drug dealer by today’s standards. Of course a lot of the urban population was in a frenzy to accumulate a new kind of wealth that would lead to ostentatious materialism. And they certainly didn’t frown on that particular profession. Conservative hard working American’s, however, deemed bonds a phony kind of wealth, and rightly so... in the very near future the entire country would inevitably be faced with the horrific devastation of the stock market crash.

But there is more depth to "So Big" than just a simple plot. The character development is superior. "So Big" could make a wonderful book club selection for analyzing the psychology of child rearing- nature versus nurture- and the virtues of acquiring a good work ethic.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1925 So Big is a timeless classic. Special thanks to my good friend and avid reader Marie Rosato for the fine recommendation. ( )
  LadyLo | Nov 20, 2018 |
An ok book, but i really didn’t understand why Mayor Emmanuel picked it as a One-Chicago-Book. This was the only thing i have ever read by Edna Ferber. ( )
  JosephKing6602 | Sep 8, 2018 |
Full life of a girl in 1930s America - wealthy when young, father dies and leaves her nothing, she becomes a teacher in a poor farming community, turns her husband's failing farm into an asparagus supplier for hotels in Chicago, raises a son who becomes a prosperous architect. Statement of values in a real life ( )
  margaretfield | May 30, 2018 |
This was such fun. Chicago, farming, aesthetics, and a kick-ass heroine. A great rags to riches story as well as being critical of materialism. And I loved the way the story revved up and concluded in such an open ended way. First rate! ( )
  laurenbufferd | Sep 9, 2017 |
Winner of the Pulitzer prize, this book was a surprise to me. Written in 1924, the themes are timeless and the wisdom and insight as appropriate now as they were then. It is beautifully written and I found myself highlighting many passages.

Highly recommended! ( )
  janb37 | Feb 13, 2017 |
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Edna Ferberprimary authorall editionscalculated
Rogers, HowardIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060956690, Paperback)

Winner of the 1924 Pulitzer Prize, So Big is widely regarded as Edna Ferber's crowning achievement. A rollicking panorama of Chicago's high and low life, this stunning novel follows the travails of gambler's daughter Selina Peake DeJong as she struggles to maintain her dignity, her family, and her sanity in the face of monumental challenges.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:51 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

A rollicking panarama of Chicago's high and low life, this stunning novel follows the travails of gambler's daughter Selina Peake DeJong as she struggles to maintain her dignity, her family, and her sanity in the face of monumental challenges.

» see all 3 descriptions

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