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The Good Earth

by Pearl S. Buck

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
11,737231383 (4.03)611
"This Pulitzer Prize-winning classic tells the poignant tale of a Chinese farmer and his family in old agrarian China. The humble Wang Lung glories in the soil he works, nurturing the land as it nurtures him and his family. Nearby, the nobles of the House of Hwang consider themselves above the land and its workers; but they will soon meet their own downfall. Hard times come upon Wang Lung and his family when flood and drought force them to seek work in the city. The working people riot, breaking into the homes of the rich and forcing them to flee. When Wang Lung shows mercy to one noble and is rewarded, he begins to rise in the world, even as the House of Hwang falls" -- from publisher's web site.… (more)
  1. 80
    Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See (mcenroeucsb)
    mcenroeucsb: Both are well-written novels set in late 19th/early 20th century China.
  2. 71
    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. 42
    Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang (ominogue)
  6. 20
    Dragon Seed by Pearl S. Buck (deeyes)
    deeyes: Dragon seed is similar but better pearl buck book
  7. 10
    The Pearl by John Steinbeck (Authoress)
    Authoress: Families who go through times of both wealth and poverty are featured in both works
  8. 21
    The Plum in the Golden Vase or, Chin P'ing Mei: Vol. 1, The Gathering by Lanling Xiaoxiao Sheng (orangewords)
  9. 11
    The City of Joy by Dominique Lapierre (orangewords)
  10. 11
    Satan in Goray by Isaac Bashevis Singer (SanctiSpiritus)
  11. 12
    The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh (ominogue)
  12. 12
    Growth of the Soil by Knut Hamsun (thatguyzero)
  13. 23
    Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh (jennyl.keen)
1930s (16)
Asia (15)
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» See also 611 mentions

English (219)  German (4)  Spanish (4)  Finnish (2)  Danish (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  All languages (231)
Showing 1-5 of 219 (next | show all)
I thoroughly enjoyed this classic story of the struggle of poor farmer Wang Lung to survive and then thrive through droughts, floods and famine in pre-revolution China. Although he is illiterate, he recognizes early on the value of land and the abundance it can provide. He acquires a wife, Olan, a slave in the home of the town’s leading merchant, Hwang. She is unattractive, selfless but a very practical hard worker who provides three sons and three daughters for Wang. Scrimping every penny, they eventually are able to acquire more land. However, severe drought forces them to head south where they are able to survive by Wang pulling a rickshaw and the rest of the family begging. Some families are so desperate that they consider selling their daughters as slaves. When they move back, their success at farming and land acquisitions allows them to become more financially comfortable. Wang’s children become educated, comfortable and a little lazy. Wang is able to expand his house and acquire a concubine who lives with the family. As he earns more money from his land, the family experiences more problems; sons who like the comfortable life, daughters who need husbands, jealousy, rivalry and relatives who are freeloaders. As an elderly widower, he enjoys lounging in the sun and walking his fields. His sons await his death with plans for developing the land for a railway.
The story is absorbing and exquisitely written. ( )
  MaggieFlo | Sep 7, 2020 |
This is about the Wang family, in China. When the story begins Wang Lung is a young farmer on his way to get married. It's an arranged marriage, with a woman who has been a slave in a wealthy household in the town. She's not beautiful but he's satisfied because she's a faithful wife, a hard worker, and bears him many children (promptly going straight back to work in the fields after each birth, without complaint!) The family survives through floods, drought, and locust plague. Every handful of years one or the other natural cause results in a famine and people around them starve. During one famine (so bad that people are literally eating dirt) Wang Lung takes his family south to a big city where they live in deplorable conditions, beg, and work at hard physical labor for very little pay. There's no way to get ahead, until unrest sweeps through the city. The homes of the rich are broken into, Wang is swept up with the mob and intimidates a terrified wealthy man into giving him handfuls of silver. Then they flee the chaos and return to the countryside. Wang uses the money to rebuild his house, and eventually buy more land. Soon he needs help with the harvest, eventually finds himself as a landowner instead of a farmer- with hired help and overseers, never actually working the fields himself anymore. He moves his family into the town. Being frequently idle now, he starts to explore the pleasures of the wealthy class- and dissatisfied with his wife's appearance, takes as second wife a much younger woman. He thinks that having success and money will ease all his troubles, but new problems arise instead- unpleasant relatives connive him into letting them live in his household, there's constant friction between his two wives, and his growing sons have their own interests- none of them really want to keep or work the land as he did. As the book closes, Wang is an old man and his sons are inspecting the fields, talking among themselves of selling the land that Wang had worked so hard for, and built the security of his family upon.

I can well see why The Good Earth is a classic. It's not very descriptive, the writing style is kind of plain- in the manner of he-said-this and they-did-that which usually bores me. But this was compelling nevertheless- I read it straight through in just a few days. In the end, I didn't like the main character Wang much- I felt like he sometimes made selfish or poor decisions, thinking of prestige and appearances more than I expected, when he came into wealth. In particular I felt bad for his first wife. Overall women are not treated well in this story. It's simply a fact that in the era and culture it depicts, girls were not valued and if the family was in need, they were often sold as very young children to be slaves or prostitutes. During the famine times some poor families quietly performed infanticide rather than see their babies suffer and starve. In this case I was glad of how sparse the prose is, reading about such hardships and terrible things people did to survive.

The story really shows a broad spectrum of human character. It wasn't only what people stooped to when their survival was at stake, but also what they indulged in or did with their money when fortunes changed, that seemed to demonstrate what they were really made of. Or what they cared most about. I think that's why I liked and felt most for Wang's first wife. She was steadfast, never asked much for herself, saw and did the work required in hard times as well as good. Wang really was unkind to her in the end.

from the Dogear Diary ( )
  jeane | Aug 30, 2020 |
Another great book to give you insights to different cultures and ways of life from a historic perspective. Troubling but again, I was glad to get the added insight. ( )
  Jolene.M | Jul 30, 2020 |
There have been many reviews written about "The Good Earth" so I doubt I will be able to rival those. I just have to say that this book had me hooked from beginning to end. I literally tried to hide from people while in the Amazon rain forest in Ecuador so I could finish this book. I don't know why it drew me in so much, but it did. I cared about this family that started off so poor, but the father (Wang Lung) who keeps his faith in the land (or Good Earth) is able to become a wealthy landowner over time. This of course leaves to a rift with him and his faithful wife (O-lan).

I don't know how realistic this book is. I am sure that Pearl S. Buck did some research. Since the author lived in China with her missionary parents one wonders how did that color her writing and observations though. I didn't get disdain from Buck while reading her words and there doesn't seem to be any elements that the Chinese people in this book are backwards. She is able to draw them as very developed characters for the most part I thought. I had a hard time with some of the characters, but that is because we didn't stay with them as much (the three sons of Wang Lung and O-lan).

I loved the ending which of course had me running to put "Sons" (House of Earth #2) on hold as soon as possible to see what becomes of Wang Lung's three sons who are so different from each other. ( )
  ObsidianBlue | Jul 1, 2020 |
Ungrateful children
soon become selfish old men
but the land endures. ( )
1 vote Eggpants | Jun 25, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 219 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (59 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Pearl S. Buckprimary authorall editionscalculated
Heald, AnthonyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Malling, LivTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mendes, OscarTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mulder de Dauner, ElisabethTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zody, BepTranslatorsecondary 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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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This is the book; do not combine with the film.
Film ISBNs: 0792803825, 0790793083
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"This Pulitzer Prize-winning classic tells the poignant tale of a Chinese farmer and his family in old agrarian China. The humble Wang Lung glories in the soil he works, nurturing the land as it nurtures him and his family. Nearby, the nobles of the House of Hwang consider themselves above the land and its workers; but they will soon meet their own downfall. Hard times come upon Wang Lung and his family when flood and drought force them to seek work in the city. The working people riot, breaking into the homes of the rich and forcing them to flee. When Wang Lung shows mercy to one noble and is rewarded, he begins to rise in the world, even as the House of Hwang falls" -- from publisher's web site.

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