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Publisher's Summary

This Pulitzer Prize-winning classic tells the poignant tale of a Chinese farmer and his family in old agrarian China. The humble Wang Lung glories in the soil he works, nurturing the land as it nurtures him and his family. Nearby, the nobles of the House of Hwang consider themselves above the land and its workers; but they will soon meet their own downfall.

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.

Critic Reviews

"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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.4 out of 5.0
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Performance

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Story

  • 4.5 out of 5.0
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  • Overall
  • Susan
  • Long Beach, CA, United States
  • 05-26-08

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!

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Robert
  • Yamhill, OR, United States
  • 09-15-12

Reread and comment as an adult.

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.

41 of 50 people found this review helpful

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  • Debbie
  • Toney, Alabama
  • 03-17-14

From the earth we came, and to it we will return

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.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Excellent narrator

Really enjoyed this book and most particularly Anthony Heald's narration. Highly recommended.

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Jordan
  • Cincinnati, OH, United States
  • 07-05-12

Perhaps the Pulitzer award was politically driven

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!

12 of 15 people found this review helpful

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Must read or hear!

If you could sum up The Good Earth in three words, what would they be?

Real, compelling characters. This is a novel that is like a painting: a gorgeous landscape painting yet at every level of magnification fine details add great depth. This is the China of the countryside. Here is the grand yet unchanging tapestry of planting, praying for the proper rain, the harvest, the frugality by which the poorest peasant attempts to acccumate capital and improve his lot in life. The vast inequality of wealth in this China is what the Left pretends exists in America. This novel will open the eyes of anyone that questions the morality of free enterprise. Peasants succeed, others starve. "Successful" ones ape the aristocrats. But a new generation is coming that will unleash 1000 years of progress within a century. This view of China was that of the missionaries. Americans are unaware of the huge numbers of missionaries that returned home with romantic ideals about China. Pearl S. Buck wrote this before the excesses of Mao warped the new China and nearly smothered it in the crib.

What did you like best about this story?

The depth of the characters is key. All the human foibles are on display yet in such a foreign manner that their universality is demonstrated. The proud Mandarins and their presumed wisdom is identical to that of the academented Left in our culture. Both are based on rhetoric-based studies in topics lacking in practicality. Their lack of practicality makes them immune to experience. And thus not testable. <br/>The peasant does not have time for rhetoric. He must prepare his fields, sow his seed, tend his fields, prepare for harvest and preserve and sell the excess correctly. This is REALITY based. If he doesn't prepare correctly he and his family will starve.

Which character – as performed by Anthony Heald – was your favorite?

The big-footed wife. But all are beautifully described.

Who was the most memorable character of The Good Earth and why?

Is this not the same question as above?

Any additional comments?

Read or listen to this book!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Emrys
  • Alfred, NY, United States
  • 04-28-16

Fascinating story of life in China-fine narration

The novel tells the story of a man's life in China around the end of the 19th century. Many fascinating details of what life was like then. One odd thing is how little affection there is between most of the characters: most of them are scheming, grasping, materialistic and selfish. The narration is excellent.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Machiavellian but too contrived

I enjoyed the Machiavellian nature of the book, in that no one was spared, even those in a position to dominate and oppress others. The take home message was that nature itself is a cruel beast who will take many forms, generation after generation. But ,there were too many predictable contrivances for me to really enjoy the story. I found it more annoying than anything else.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Countdown to Revolution

Would you listen to The Good Earth again? Why?

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.

What other book might you compare The Good Earth to and why?

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.<br/><br/>'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.

Which scene was your favorite?

The scenes with the father and his first daughter---very touching scenes.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The wife's last days and her life.

Any additional comments?

No.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Incredible book, spectacularly rendered!

For years people have been telling me I should read this book. I finally downloaded the audio format and was blown away by both the incredible story and the masterful reading by Anthony Heald. I listen to at least one audiobook a week and this narration stands out among the very best. I was struck by how Buck so persuasively tells the story of a man and his family from a completely different culture. But it turns out that Buck was born and spent much of her life in China. The narrator seemed to capture the cadence of her writing (sometimes criticized I read, for being too repetitive) beautifully. I highly recommend this download.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful