“At the beginning of the 20th century, Wang Lung and his aging father are the only living members of their family. They own a small plot of land that they farm in rural China. The novel takes place over most of the rest of Wang Lung's life as he marries, raises children, suffers through droughts and floods that destroy his crops and leave his family starving, and finally, becomes wealthy through the purchase of more and more farm land.
I really enjoymost of Buck's novels. I know this is her most popular by far, but I was disappointed. Apart from the fact that this was one of her first books to be published, I'm not sure why this is the one that has stuck in people's minds instead of The Living Reed or Command the Morning, both of which I think are better. I realize that the slice of Chinese culture that was portrayed here is quite different from contemporary American culture, but I had a hard time liking Wang Lung. The many flaws in his character and his inconsistency outweighed the strengths in his character for me. It also took me a while to get used to the simplicity of the writing, which may very well have been a brillliant choice on the part of the author given that the book was about poor, ignorant peasants, but it made the book less enjoyable for me.
Overall, there's a lot to appreciate about the book (the historical aspects, the intimate look at a different culture and way of life, the potential religious symbolism if you want to look at it through that lense), which is why I bumped my rating up to four stars, but I just didn't enjoy reading this book as much as I have some of Buck's others and would have to give it three stars for enjoyment alone.”