Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Good Earth by Pearl Buck

Pearl Buck's 1932 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel begins on the morning of Wang Lung's wedding day in pre-revolutionary China. He is a poor farmer, about to marry O-Lan, whom he has never met. O-Lan had been sold into slavery at a rich man's house when she was nine years old. With hard work, Lung and O-Lan survive many hardships and build a prosperous family estate. I thought I might find the book dated, but instead I was impressed. There was a point where I got so irritated with Wang Lung's infatuation with a prostitute that I almost had to stop reading - I felt so bad for O-Lan. I'm glad that I stuck with it. Buck is said to have honestly portrayed the cultural attitudes of the times - it was not a good time and place to be female. Knowing details about Buck's life (through Anchee Min's Pearl of China) gave me insight into the story as well. For example, Wang Lung's "little fool" seemed to be based on Buck's daughter, who was born with a developmental disability. This is a good story for readers who like family sagas, characters who develop over time, and detailed historical settings.

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