Saturday, December 31, 2011

Book Review of #1 The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

Name of Book: The Good Earth

Author: Pearl Buck

ISBN: 0-7432-7293-5

Publisher: Washington Square Press

Part of a Series: The house of good earth trilogy; Sons and A House Divided sequels

Type of book: generational, farming, famine, rise to wealth, 1800s, China, gender,

Year it was published: 1931


Though more than sixty years have passed since this remarkable novel won the Pulitzer Prize, it has retained its popularity and become one of the great modern classics. "I can only write what I know, and I know nothing but China, having always lived there," wrote Pearl Buck. In The Good Earth she presents a graphic view of a China when the last emperor reigned and the vast political and social upheavals of the twentieth century were but distant rumblings for the ordinary people. This moving, classic story of the honest farmer Wang Lung and his selfless wife O-lan is must reading for those who would fully appreciate the sweeping changes that have occurred in the lives of the Chinese people during this century.

Nobel Prize winner Pearl S. Buck traces the whole cycle of life: its terrors, its passions, its ambitions and rewards. Her brilliant novel -- beloved by millions of readers -- is a universal tale of the destiny of man.


I do wish that there was more about O-lan, about why she is so shy and never tells Wang Lung anything about herself beyond the basics. The sons are interesting as well, and I would have liked to know why they think the way they do. (One is insatiable, another a skinflint, and third invisible.) Lotus and the sons' wives strike me as spoiled brats who aren't happy with anything. Wang Lung, although I didn't agree with a lot he did, to me he's not a horrible man as others are saying he is.


The author covered a lot of conflicts such as the generational ones between Wang Lung and his sons, the wealth conflicts, the gender conflicts, etc. I think in some ways the story tends to be biblical, (and not just the writing,) and in many ways its a moralistic story. The roots of how the family became wealthy and how they might eventually the House of Hwang is also a fascinating one.


The writing reminds me of biblical writing, that is something about the way she writes The Good Earth sounds similar to Genesis. The author introduces you to Wang Lung as he is getting married and one can see into psychology and how he is during normal times, poverty times and also prosperous times. He also rises from poor to wealthy through luck it seems and through O-lan's cleverness. Very fascinating picture. This is also written completely from Wang Lung's point of view in third person narrative.

Author Information:

June 26, 1892 in Hillsboro, West Virginia, The United States

March 06, 1973


Literature ; Fiction, Biographies ; Memoirs, Children's Books

About this author

Pearl Comfort Sydenstricker Buck was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1938 "for her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China and for her biographical masterpieces" and the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 1932 for The Good Earth.


In 2008 I was hanging out with an ex friend at a bookstore and we were walking through aisles when she pointed out a book to me called The Good Earth and mentioned how much she hated the male character. Even when I checked on, the male character, Wang Lung, doesn't have any fans. (I'll do an editorial on his character.)  I think its a fascinating novel of perhaps 40 or more years of a man's life. Its interesting that the author doesn't seem to delve too deeply into Chinese ceremonies and that she never mentioned celebrating the 60th birthday or Moon Festival or anything of that kind. The characters are fascinating, the parallels between Wang and Hwang families even more so. I don't know how historically accurate the novel is, but its an interesting read and something to ponder and think over.

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

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