“Bookclub”karen p wrote this review Wednesday, May 15, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Within The Good Earth, Pearl Buck paints a beautiful portrait of rural Chinese life in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The book follows the life and varied fortunes of one Wang Lung from his wedding day to old age, and in doing so describes how he rose from simple peasant to rich landowner. By the end, however, it becomes clear that all his wealth will neither bring happiness nor outlive him for long.
The Islamic historian Ibn Khaldun once remarked that an empire seldom outlives three generations. It's a salient observation, and rarely is it so neatly illustrated as in The Good Earth. Wang Lung, though certainly imperfect, retains a dignity and self-respect which his sons and grandsons seem to lack--primarily because of their soft upbringing among wealth. The reader is thus left to debate the question: is it better to live humbly and close to the earth, or should one be willing to sacrifice this heritage in the pursuit of money?
The tone of the novel is delightfully dignified. Buck relies upon what one commentator titled "biblical" language; indeed, the writing felt like a curious amalgam of Tolkien's elevated style and Steinbeck's eloquently plain storytelling. In the end the book left me with a certain sense of peace. Like Wang Lung, the reader can sense the plain beauty of the cycle of human life, and can find rest in knowing their place in the world.
I also appreciated the insight this book gives into Chinese life, while at the same time refraining from either romanticizing or denigrating it. Wang Lung's life is undeniably ugly, and before the final page the reader encounters blackmail, infanticide, and horrendous gender inequalities. Despite all this, I felt that it gave me a new understanding and sympathy for the Chinese people.
I enthusiastically recommend this highly readable book to anyone. It's a rags-to-riches story, a cultural study, and a historical dissertation on China, all rolled into one. Rated 4.5 stars out of 5.”
“I very much enjoyed this classic by Pearl S. Buck. I had wanted to read it for a very long time and finally had a chance to pick it up in a school library where I was subbing. I am very glad I did.
Wang Lung goes from rags to riches in this coming of age story. His father arranges a marriage for him to O'lan who is a slave in the big house. She is not good looking but is wise and a hard worker. She helps Wang Lung in the fields, delivers her children herself and goes back to the fields. After nearly starving in the drought and going south, Wang Lung and O'lan acquire wealth and return home. Wang Lung invests in land and becomes wealthy.
Very worthwhile read.”
“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.”
“I was a schoolboy when I read this book. With China having been under attack by every White marauder nation for a few centuries, as well as by the Japanese, the author cleverly told us about the people of China, even while she claimed that she did not know the country. How could she when she was living in it? ”dragonraj wrote this review Sunday, April 28, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“(roleplaying as Cosette) I really liked this book. It reminds me of my own life; at the end of a struggle comes good days. The Good Earth inspires me to work hard every day for madame because in the end, it'll all pay off.”Sarah Lin Shen wrote this review Tuesday, April 16, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Audio book performed by Anthony Heald
This is an epic tale of the peasant farmer Wang Lung and his family. The novel opens on his wedding day. Living alone with aging widowed father, he is the only surviving son and they barely eke out a living on their small piece of land. But despite their poverty he finally asks, “Am I not to have a woman?” and so his marriage to O-Lan, a kitchen slave in a great house, is arranged. It’s a good union, despite the lack of an emotional attachment between them, and they share a determination and willingness to work hard. Their harvest is good in that first year, and their first child is a boy. When O-Lan returns to the great house to show the old mistress her first-born son, she notices signs of economic distress. She mentions this to Wang Lung and he takes advantage of the opportunity to buy more land. And so they begin to build their life of prosperity.
The novel spans about fifty years, and they were times of upheaval in China – the Boxer rebellion, the Russo-Japanese war, the end of the Qing dynasty, and the beginnings of the Chinese Nationalist Party. But Wang Lung, like many rural Chinese, remains largely unaware of these larger political events, and focused on his own personal struggles.
Buck’s characters are wonderfully drawn. She reveals the many facets of their character through their thoughts and actions over the years. They deal with the usual changes and trials in any life – aging parents, death of loved ones, raising children, teen rebellion, angry relatives, petty jealousies and major disappointments. They also endure famine, war, displacement, and plagues. The one constant for Wang Lung and O-Lan, however, is their firm belief in the land – that good earth which they faithfully tend and which, in turn, nourishes and sustains them.
Wang Lung is a complex man – simple and unassuming at the outset, tender and caring with his children, angry and spiteful with his enemies, brash and lashing out when he gives in to temptation, ashamed and quieted when he realizes what he may lose, and finally dignified and at peace as he looks back on his life and ponders his own end.
Buck writes in a very simple style, with few complex sentences, and only enough description to set the scene. The result is a story that feels current and immediate; the reader experiences the events along with Wang Lung, O-Lan and the other characters. It is very similar to an oral tradition of story-telling, where the plot is the most important element.
Anthony Heald does a fine job performing the audio. His voice is a little rough for the female characters, but I was impressed with how he “aged” Wang Lung through the course of the book – taking him from a 20-something young man to a man of 70.
“Didn't actually finish this book. Too depressing!”Gretchen wrote this review Tuesday, April 9, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Very well written, but difficult for me to enjoy for the terrible, inhumane way that people, especially women were treated. ”Jocelyn B wrote this review Thursday, March 28, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“I am sure that I read this in high school and remember enjoying it. I am wanting to revisit it in conjunction with the fairly recent fictionalized account of Pearl's life, "Pearl of China" by Ahchee Min.
I loved re-reading this classic. So many truths about life and people are found here, as well as a portrait of life in rural China that gives insight into the Chinese people that I did not have previously.”