In South Lake Tahoe now; moved here to volunteer in wildlife rehab. Bears, raccoons, squirrels, birds -- lovely! Also knitting, embroidery, spinning and audio books.
I paid cash for this when I had no credits. For a dollar an hour, well, I don't know how they did it so inexpensively, but thank you very much. I gather this work is important to the women's movement and also as American literature. Being a lit major, I can now say I've listened. However, it will take another listen or two and some background study to appreciate the work better. Don't choose it for a fun listen; you'll be put to sleep, hardly awakened, with details of drawing rooms and calling cards and removing the hat and so on. This story is subtle, somewhat like Henry James. I remember wanting to shake the man in "Beast in the Jungle" and holler at him, "SHE LOVES YOU, LUNKHEAD!" That said, the story is almost embroidered on silk or painted with watercolors. The narrator gets the Southern accent nicely, but I never forget he is reading. Maybe this is because of the writing. He does read clearly and the whole production is quite flawless. So if your professor has assigned this work, download and enjoy. I know you will enjoy. OTOH for a really good listen, turn to Diana Gabaldon, Bryce Courtenay, or Alexander Dumas.
First off, this narrator is marvelous! He prepared for this reading extremely well, so that there is never a dull moment, though there are relaxed and flowing passages contrasting with the sex (yes, sweet sex and friendship) and fiery political stuff. Politics has never been my forte, but I have forced myself to use the little IQ points to pay attention to matters which might prove crucial someday.
I read 1984 back when that date was so far ahead in the future that it seemed to me and my friends that the time would never come. A ouija board told me I would not get married until 1983 -- which proved true, to a man I met in the back of a Greyhound -- and I was horrified! I think young people don't realize how precious life is at any age. "Respect life" has become a stupid knee-jerk slogan, but . . . ignore it at your peril. So this book is about a nice family man who edits a small-town newspaper in Vermont. Lewis alternates family events with town, county, country and world events as a different kind of government takes over our country, the insolent handy-man (not!) becomes local mucky-muck, scholarship and learning are overlooked and even ridiculed, and machine guns decide for death over life.
I enjoyed the many clever references in the book, little descriptions that seem modern. There is even a reference to television. It will take another listen to get more of these. An annotated version would help me. And I am angry that I will have to send for a print copy to get the last four paragraphs. For shame, audible! The book is timely because more of our kids are squeaking by their classes with multiple-choice exams. More and more seniors are spending their golden years playing stupid games on FB. I was accosted last week in an electronics store by a young Nazi with striped hair and big plastic fingernails who took delight in telling me that my camera is so old, they have no parts for it and furthermore I am old and ugly and low-income, a has-been, while she is sharp and strong and one happening chick! Two apparently castrated co-workers hung back and watched. I wondered if she had been watching too many silly legal dramas on TV where would-be lawyers with big plastic fingernails and mini-skirt-suits triumph in conference rooms. She did not pull out a machine gun, but I am old enough to make far-seeing witch-like predictions, and I was plenty chilled. People are being bullied badly world-wide these days in schools, on the job, and in senior housing. Something to watch.
Lewis has as many vivid and "liberated" female characters as male. I noticed that no matter how many restrictions, no matter how bad things got, individuals still found small things to take pleasure in, people to love, happy memories. A cook named Mrs. Candy who bakes cocoanut cake! A precious dog named Foolish! Although the book was written in 1935 and takes place in 1936 and on, Lewis seems to know already about Hitler's death camps. At least we do, and so we flash on them repeatedly. I thought often of the heartless military types who assembled in New Orleans after Katrina. You bet it could happen here! We need to have our fun 100% and stand up for other kinds of fun that other kinds of people enjoy. We need to pay attention to coverage of so-called terrorist events which are then used to support gun control. We need to watch out for labels; a born-again Republican type (or a damned liberal Democrat!) might become your best friend and savior down the line. We need to study new wrinkles in our laws that various courts come up with. These are scarey times. I found this book most refreshing!
Listening to this was quite a revelation. My mother had often referred to someone who had not been properly brought up but just "grew like Topsy." She also knew something of Simon Legree. Both characters are in the book, as well as sayings like "It's a free country!" I can only imagine families reading this book aloud in the evening. It is not an easy read. I gave it five stars because between the author and the narrator it is absolutely superb. It is quite entertaining with great turns of plot and violence and ghosts and even love stories. Modern people may find it sappy. Other modern people may find something like their old-time religion in it. I gave it an immediate second listen at a time of serious depression and was much comforted. The book came out in 1852 and helped prepare the whole population for the end of slavery. With school children continuing to read the classic, it would have leavened thinking in ensuing years. In passing, I enjoyed noticing quaint turns of phrase no longer in use. I have a paper copy of the book and plan to share the Topsy chapter with my ESL learner, a Russian lady. Thanks, audible, for another good listen!
Hey Audible, don't raise prices and I promise to buy lots more books.
The good earth was published in 1931, awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1932 and probably contributed to the author winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1938. While it can be considered a stand-alone work with its satisfying conclusion, it is the first installment in a trilogy. Set in post-imperial, pre-WWII China, it helped foment poor relations with Japan going into that war.
The book is primarily about the rise and fall of one Wang Lung, his family and fortune. The protagonist begins the book as a hard working farmer who later becomes a rather successful business man as he accumulates more and more land (hence, the good earth theme). Wang Lung loves the land above all other things. That love comes with a price, as all farmers know, in the form of adverse weather, drought and famine. The value that Lung puts on the land in the face of starvation, death and despair represents perhaps the central theme of the book.
I read this book as a youngster when the view and position of China in the world was a great deal different than it is today. I read a review of the book just prior to this reading which blasted the book for its collection of racist stereotypes. On this, Andrew Nathan in Foreign Affairs writes that in his view, Buck delves deeply into the lives of the Chinese poor and opposed "religious fundamentalism, racial prejudice, gender oppression, sexual repression, and discrimination against the disabled." I don’t think that we can criticize a book for telling a story about that way things once were and that seems to be the focus of much of the criticism. Further, I think that the book speaks more to who we are as human beings than the Chinese as a race. Apparently the whole notion of race in China is a new one. Chinese intellectuals translated “race” as “zhong zu” (种族) a combination of the word for “seed” (种 or zhong) and an old Chinese term (族 or zu) used to describe the lineage of patrilineal extended families. What a coincidence that is: a book about the earth where seeds are placed and the male-centric families that tend them. Does that make the book racist? Me thinks not.
Now about that rating. For a book that brought its author the Pulitzer and Nobel Prizes, it’s hard not to give the book top ratings. Would not less than the highest rating say more about the reviewer than the book? But sometimes we must be bold. Many of us read this book as YAs and, especially because of its simplicity, it fits that billet well. As an adult, however, I look for more layers, depth and complexity in my reads. Not that simple isn’t good. For me too, simple can put a book over the top. This was just not one of them.