Saturday, May 23

Book Review: The Good Earth by Pearl S Buck

Author: Pearl S. Buck
Title: The Good Earth
Genre: Historical Fiction & Classic
Pages: 418
First Published: 1931
Where I Got It: My shelf (Given to me by my parents)

This 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.

This has been on my list to read for quite some time now. I am glad I finally got myself to read it, even though it took a while to get through it. It's a classic novel, so its like strong wine and you have to take sips of it at a time. 

On the surface this book seems like a story about a man trying to make his way through life. He gets married, has some kids, bad things happen, he begins to get wealthy, his kids have kids, and then he dies. WHICH I must point out his two eldest sons are jerks, because they want to sell the land which MADE them all rich when Wang Lung dies. So sad. 

Looking deeper, though, the story has so much more to give. The oppression of people (mainly women), wealth can corrupt even the most amiable of men (like Wang Lung), and the cycle of life. 

Gah. I was angry with Wang Lung, because he wasn't a horrible guy, but then he got rich and became like the old man of the House of Hwang. Was it really his fault? Was it societies fault? Both, honestly. The moment he stopped working on the land, he became bored and became an a-typical rich guy. He starts sleeping around and even cuts his hair and buys expensive things. Ugh! I was so hurt for O-lan...Wang Lung was horrible to her because she was "ugly" and her feet were not bound as a child, so she has "big feet", which is unattractive. It was sad, because she was there through the bad times when he was a poor farmer boy. She could have left, but she was loyal. And how does Wang Lung treat his faithful and loving wife? Get a concubine. >_> I lost all respect for Wang Lung throughout the story. It made it hard to read, honestly. 

Again...wealth can corrupt anyone...even Wang Lung. The moment they moved from the land into town, the fate of land was sealed. The boys did not care or appreciate the land, so why would they want to continue the family tradition of being farmers? They have money now. Gah. 

What also bugged me was how Wang and the boys looked down at servants....WAIT? Dude, Wang you were JUST a peasant two minutes ago. I get it, but then I don' is simply the reality. 

Which kuddos to the author for keeping up with reality and making it seem real. She did not sugar-coat what would happen. All women were oppressed (even the rich ones). All poor people were considered "slaves"/peasants. And money can ruin any family and morals.

My only complaint was the lack of names for the majority of characters. Like non of the children or wives had names. There was the Eldest Son, Second Son, Third Son, First daughter, and so forth. For some reason it annoyed me. 'Tis silly, but I do like the characters named. It really slowed me down, especially when the cousin came about. Wang Lung called him, "My Uncle's Son". WHY NOT JUST SAY YOUR COUSIN? Gah.

Now, I did like the ending. It worked and seemed perfect. Sad, but realistic.

In the end, this was an interesting book. I am glad I read it, because it really begs the question: can an individual be soley at blame for their actions? Does the society aid in these actions? Humans are "sheep" and follow the crowd to "fit in". Also, it was a nice change of scenery for me. I wish I had read this while I was learning about China in one of my classes. That class really helped me understand the Chinese culture of today and especially of the past. I totally recommend this for someone who wants a book that will make them think as well as entertain them. Out of five stars, I stamp this with 3 stars.

Favorite Character(s): Wang Lung (at the beginning), O-lan, Ching, & Third Son
Not-so Favorite Character(s): Lotus & Old Wang Lung (*shakes my head*) 


Blodeuedd said...

I can't say I wanna read this one

Carole Rae said...

Meh. A movie would be better.

Anachronist said...

Sounds interesting and China, oh China, is such a lovely place to set your novel. Have any of you watched "Farewell My Concubine", a 1993 movie? If not then you might want to watch it - the topic is slightly similar.

Carole Rae said...

I'll have to give it a watch!