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.
©1958 Pearl S. Buck; (P)2007 Blackstone Audio Inc.
"A beautiful, beautiful book. At last we read, in the pages of a novel, of the real people of China." (Saturday Review)
"The Good Earth has style, power, coherence and a pervasive sense of dramatic reality." (New York Times Book Review)
"To read this story of Wang Lung is to be slowly and deeply purified; and when the last page is finished it is as if some significant part of one's own days were over." (Bookman)
This is the story of a humble Chinese peasant farmer struggling to eke out a living in rural China around the turn of the last century. He also struggles to rise above his humble beginnings, an odd stroke of good fortune amidst disaster aiding in the effort. He never forgets that his roots and heritage lie in the land he amasses and with limited success instills that in his family. This story is so magnificently written, each character is so perfectly drawn, the descriptions so vivid, one obtains a clear unadulterated concept of the way of life the Chinese farmer had then. It feels as though the author gives deep thought to each and every word she puts on paper, how each sentence is built and how each subplot is played out, it is written that well. The reader, too, is up to the challenge of such a task. He's simply superb in the difficult vocalizations of the cast of characters ranging from the elderly Chinese to the young of both sexes. It's not often I can say this but this is one of the best I've ever listened to or read. This is highly deserving of its Pulitzer prize (1932) and is a true masterpiece of American literature.
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.
Had to read it in High School, back in the 70's, and remembered half of it. SO glad I decided to "read it"/ hear it again. It was SO much more meaningful this time around. Still so relevant, still so heartbreaking. Very important to have in one's library. Much can be taken from it.
Story of one man's mental/emotional growth from new groom until his place in death, and it's meaning amongst the past, and regarding the future. Strong family values are explored.
Heartbreaking, and eye-opening. Respect your elders.
I can't believe I waited till my 60's to read this wonderful classic. This is a novel full of rich characters and narrated beautifully. I didn't want it to end.
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
Though written in 1931, The Good Earth hasn't lost a bit of its timeless power and beauty. Set in agrarian, pre-Revolution China, the book tells the tale of impoverished farmer Wang Lung, who, through hard work and a stroke of good luck, goes from being a poor man on the edge of starvation to a rich one with much land and a large family. Yet, his new life only brings him new problems, which keep coming as the years pass.
Buck writes with simple but eloquent brush strokes, and the world and culture she describes are fascinating. In some ways, this novel could describe the life of peasant people anywhere. The language is simple and direct, and beyond a few quaint turns of phrase, doesn't feel at all dated. All of her characters, including the protagonist, are flawed people, and she writes about them without judgment, but truthfully. It's not a world that's always kind, especially to girls and women, but it's a world that was. We also see the virtues and the faults of capitalism, as it existed around the turn of the 20th century.
This is a beautiful, lyrical story that paints a vivid, cyclical picture of life in another time and place. Highly recommended. The audiobook narrator does an excellent job, as well, effortlessly making his intonations more or less Chinese, depending on if he's reading dialogue or description.
I found listening to this audio book extremely enjoyable. I have a 40 minute drive to and from work each day and I use that time to listen to my audio books. This one was so engaging that I found myself thinking about the story all day long and could not wait to get back in my car to listen to another segment of this book.
This is as excellent of an audiobook as you will ever hear. The narrator is outstanding, putting expression even in the chapter numbers. The book is an expansive adventure throughout the life of Wang Lung, a Chinese farmer. His story and that of his family present universal conflicts and decisions that all of us and our families have to face at some point. I give this audiobook my highest recommendation.
Audible Member Since 2003
Pearl S. Buck won a Pulitzer for this novel as well as being awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. The Good Earth lives up to all accolades.
From the start, I knew I was listening to a timeless classic and was hooked. The prose is clean, unencumbered; almost biblical or "Hemingwayesque."
The Good Earth is the story of Wang Lung, a poor Chinese farmer who takes a wife and through hard work and frugality is able to purchase more land to cultivate, and eventually prosper. All of the characters are flawed, including Wang Lung and the story tells of the cruelty in early 20th century China where sons are valued and daughters are killed or sold into slavery.
The reader is brilliant and adds to the enjoyment of this wonderful audio book.
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