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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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