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)
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.
Enjoyed this book very much. Excellent narrater and the story kept me interested every step of the way. I would recommend this book highly. Very excellent!
Retired CFO, Army wife, Mom of five, Grandma of six, two sons who served in combat, love to read books that reflect my values and faith, love mysteries, historical, military stories, and books that don't waste my time . . . if it doesn't have an ending that was worth the wait, I'm not a happy camper.
Listening to this book, now, as I near 60 years old, is such a different experience than reading it in high school in the early 70s. When one is very young, one THINKS that one may be wise, when one is old, if one is blessed, one KNOWS better. The Good Earth is written very simply, but it's far from simple. My heart kept begging Wang Lung to be MORE than his wayward soul . . . to stay true to the good earth . . . to love what is pure . . . to be who he was as a young man. The age old proverbs of men and wealth seem to hold true in all societies. The Good Earth should still be on the reading lists for middle/high school students, along with discussion groups and essays. For there is still much to be gleened from it's pages.
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this audiobook narrated by Anthony Heald. He could very well become a favorite of mine. I was surprised when I learned he was Dr Chilton from Silence of the Lambs. He didn't just read the book, but added inflection to each word.
I read The Good Earth as a requirement when I went to school but didn't remember a thing about it. It was a new and pleasant discovery to read it again.
The book is a rich portrait of culture of the Chinese people. It followed the life of Wang Lung, a poor farmer from working his land and the good life it brought him. It described times of abject poverty and near starvation to wealth and prestige. The story demonstrates how money and wealth can make one forget his/her humble beginnings. It also reflects on the struggle to pass on one's morals and ethics to children.
While I enjoyed this first book in a trilogy, I don't think I will read the other two - Sons and A House Divided. I was engaged with Wang Lung's life but never cared enough about his children to continue on with their stories. But, you never know. I could change my mind.
I'll admit this is well written and the narration is good but about a quarter of the way through I started to really dislike the main character. I listened all the way through and liked him less and less. By the end I was glad to be done with him. An interesting look a pre-communist China but I wouldn't listen to it again.
Although the craftsmanship of the author was excellent, I was left feeling entirely underwhelmed and even a little empty after listening to this work. There was no deep character development and at that, the characters all seemed simple-minded and even base - quasi animal-like. And perhaps that was the message, that we are all just simple, base, primary needs driven creatures. Having said this, I actually doubt that Buck was trying to make that the main point of the work. And so, was the main thrust that the land is virtuous in some way? If that was her point, then she fell short of explaining why.
I believe there's a chance that this work rose to its Pulitzer prize winning status due to political/sociological events going on at the time, i.e., the depression and class struggles. I doubt it's an accident that this work, extolling the virtues of farmers and portraying the wealthy as entirely negative entities, sold well during the 30's and ultimately was chosen in 1938 to win the Pulitzer.
Anyway, I would like to say that the narration was EXCELLENT! Bravo to Anthony Heald!
I've been working my way through some of Western culture's "classic" literature and have enjoyed many of them. Some I disliked so much I didn't finish them. I did enjoy this performance, and I enjoyed many aspects of the book. I did struggle with a general dislike of pretty much every character however. I kept waiting for the lead character to grow and change but he did not. I'm guessing it's a combination of cultural differences and literary tastes from the early part of the 20th century. I didn't like any characters in the Great Gatsby either and certainly there isn't anyone likeable in Atlas Shrugged. Having listened to this book soon after the Grapes of Wrath, it was difficult not to compare the two, with the Grapes of Wrath being the clear winner. Still, I am glad I made the effort. The narration is very good and I'll be looking for other books done by this narrator.
I love learning, teaching, and exploring!
I did not realize that this book was part of a trilogy. This book was a little bit slow to get into but it unfolded to become a lovely story about a man throughout transformations in his life. The author is very good at describing pivotal events in the life of the main character. It was a memorable story and an enjoyable read although I haven`t yet decided if I would like to read the next books.
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