In my mid sixties, I have finally read this classic. It was never a required book in my years of high school nor college, but I am glad I have been desiring to read some classic literature now. It truly is “literature” – “written works, esp. those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit.” The Good Earth was published in 1931, written of a time around the 1920s in China when the last emperor reigned in China. Pearl Buck won the Pulitzer Prize for this novel.
Wang Lung is a farmer. The land is his security. The land becomes more and more important to him as he ages. He begins small, but fears, life’s upheavals, social and political changes, destitution, lust and greed factor into how Wang Lung lives each new day. Wang Lung has a faithful, selfless wife, O-Lan. She has known hard times, struggling since she was a girl for she was sold to the “Great House of Hwang” as a girl slave.
The Good Earth is about this couple, their country, China, and the sweeping changes of both the man and the country over his lifetime. The book traces the slow rise of Wang Lung from humble peasant farmer to great landlord. He achieves this feat by gradually adding to his lands and making enormous sacrifices to retain them through hard times. Fortunes were gained and lost, horded and stolen. Times of fear, hard living, hard work, lives filled with passion, ambitions, and rewards, times of sorrow and weakness fill this novel to overflowing. The country of China then was an agrarian country so times were different. The people lived on the land and worked it to live or they lived in the towns and cities making life there. There were the poor and the wealthy with very little in between. China certainly was not a world power as it is today.
I found this to be a fine novel of its eighty-three years. It is beautifully written as the characters feel real, the emotions sadly authentic, and the life cycle ringing true no matter what country or time period we face. This family struggles falling into bad times, regains their footing, experiences poverty and wealth. There is anger between family members, love and appreciation for others. Some use others for their own gain, and sense fear and jealousy of many, be they family members or neighbors in the nearest town.
So much is encompassed in this classic novel. It is a fine piece of literature.
Bestselling book – both 1931 and 1932
Pulitzer Prize – 1935
Howells Medal – 1935
Nobel Prize in Literature – 1938 (first American woman to win this award as well)
Pearl S. Buck was born on June 26, 1892, in Hillsboro, West Virginia. She began to publish stories and essays in the 1920s, in magazines such as The Nation, The Chinese Recorder, Asia, and The Atlantic Monthly. Her first novel, East Wind, West Wind, was published by the John Day Company in 1930. In 1931, John Day published Pearl’s second novel, The Good Earth. By the time of her death in 1973, Pearl had published more than seventy books: novels, collections of stories, biography and autobiography, poetry, drama, children’s literature, and translations from the Chinese. She is buried at Green Hills Farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
- ISBN-13: 9780743272933
- Publisher: Washington Square Press
- Publication date: 9/15/2004
- Pages: 368
- Product dimensions: 5.20 x 8.20 (h) x 1.00 (d)
I ORIGINALLY REVIEWED THE PIECE OF CLASSIC LITERATURE ON 4-16-2014.