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 book magnificently draws the reader into the story where there are numerous subplots -- all about the Chinese way of life at the turn of the century. The narrator does a wonderful job of the different vocalizations required -- I listened to it in a weekend -- I wish I could find another classic that was this excellent!
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!
Even though this book was written over 80 years ago, there are certain underlying themes, dreams, and events that remain true today.......the more things change, the more they remain the same.
A man of humble beginnings raises a family and rises in wealth and power, only to watch his sons abandon the family business when he grows older and longs for nothing more than peace in his home. The family business is owning land and farming, the home includes not just a wife and children, but a concubine and servants, and there are other particulars specific to the time and place (rural China early 1900s), but it's all still about recognizable hopes and dreams.
Yes, the pacing is slow, but I'm pretty sure life was slow in rural China in the early 1900s, so that's appropriate. It helps to set the tone and feeling for Wang Lung's life and times. Yes, there are prejudices on class and gender lines, but that's also appropriate for the times. This was a slow, subtle road that was, in the end, ultimately very worthwhile.
The narration was wonderful. This is the second audiobook I've heard by Anthony Heald, and he's done a great job each time.
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.
This is a wonderful classic that brings you into the world of rural peasants in China at the turn of the 20th century when some things are beginning to modernize. I am going to go fairly deeply into the plot so skip this paragraph if you don’t want to know more! Our hero, Wan Lung is a poor peasant farmer devoted to his land. Too poor to find a good bride, his aging father purchases a slave woman – O-Lan – from a wealthy family to be his bride. The couple is happy though silent with each other. O-Lan is a devoted worker in both the house and field and they prosper enough to buy some more land from the wealthy lords. O-Lan is fertile and they are blessed with sons and a daughter (daughters are considered slaves because they will eventually move into the house of another family). But their prosperity is halted by a terrible famine. They come near to starvation when they decide to migrate south to a big city just to survive. O-Lan gives birth to a dead daughter (or perhaps strangled) and the family sets out. They encounter the railroad for the first time. In the big city they struggle by begging and manual labor just to have enough to eat. The youngest child – a daughter – seems to never recover from the starvation and is mentally retarded but Wan Lung loves her and refuses to sell her to survive. When an instability arises the poor peasants storm a great house and Wan Lung and O-lan find enough valuables to let them go back to the land he loves so much and farm again and again he prospers. But when floods stop all work he becomes bored and spends time in the town at the tea houses and becomes mesmerized by a lovely prostitute named Lotus and eventually buys her to be his concubine. O-Lan is heartbroken but says almost nothing. The two women live tensely in the different sections of his house. O-Lan’s health is failing from hard labor and many pregnancies. She dies just after the eldest son takes a city wife who is more like Lotus than O-Lan herself. Wan Lung prospers and continues to buy more land. He becomes so rich that eventually he takes over the house of the wealthy family and can rent out his land for others to farm. His sons become educated and live like rich men with no attachment to the land except to take the money it brings in. Their wives fight and there is little peace in the house. Grandchildren continue to come. In his old age Wan Lung finds a lovely young slave girl and takes her to him causing more conflict. In his old age his sons run everything and Wan Lung stays with his slave girl and his retarded daughter whom he eventually entrusts to the slave girl. In the end he is very old and still loves his land but his greedy sons are talking about selling land as soon as he is gone.
The writing is lovely, the characters real and easy to keep track of. For example, instead of confusing us with many Chinese names, she refers to the sons as eldest son, second son, etc., and the other relatives as uncle, etc.. This really helps. The reading is beautifully done. It is mesmerizing and I loved it.
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 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.
Probably not. I greatly appreciated learning what the book had to teach me but it is a difficult book to read, at least for me it was, emotionally. I typically pick books to re-read which are enjoyable or comforting.
I recommend other readers try 'The Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China' by Jung Chang which continues the story of the Great China Cultural Revolution through the lives of three generations of women.
'The Good Earth' reminds me also of an American classic, 'The Grapes of Wrath' by John Steinbeck which also takes place in the 1930's and is centered around around a man and his family relocating to enable them to survive.
The scenes with the father and his first daughter---very touching scenes.
The wife's last days and her life.
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