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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Window into early 1900 China
THE GOOD EARTH, Pearl Buck, Washington Sq. Press, 1931, pp357

This novel should be read before SONS which is a continuation of The Good Earth. Pearl lived in China a great deal of her life and what she writes in her novels reveals much about Chinese life in the early 1900's. This novel is about Wang Lung, a very poor farmer who ekes out a living from his...
Published on June 3 2010 by Richard J. Mcisaac

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Don't Bother...
I know this is a classic but save yourself some time and don't bother. However, if you are a poor high school student and are forced to read this for class, check out the audio book at your local library. Since I listened to the audio book, I can vouch for it.
I decided to give this book a try when I read about it in an article. To read this book, you have to keep in...
Published on April 20 2003 by Sarah Wu


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Window into early 1900 China, June 3 2010
By 
Richard J. Mcisaac (Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
THE GOOD EARTH, Pearl Buck, Washington Sq. Press, 1931, pp357

This novel should be read before SONS which is a continuation of The Good Earth. Pearl lived in China a great deal of her life and what she writes in her novels reveals much about Chinese life in the early 1900's. This novel is about Wang Lung, a very poor farmer who ekes out a living from his meagre land which barely sustains him and his father. He is about to be married.
His life is arduous and totally dependent on what he produces from the land. He represents the utterly poor of China and through Pearl's first-hand knowledge, we get glimpses of how gruesome life must have been. The story centres around Wang and his children as they grow up and the father's hopes for each. He recognizes and values that it is the land which sustains them, and he continues to buy any available. Unfortunately, as he gains in wealth, he and the children lose sight of the source of this wealth and the further removed from the land they become, the more serious the consequences: 'Land is one's flesh and blood.' (p. 52)
Even if one loves the land however, one is subject to the whims of nature and man's interference. So we experience such hardships as backbreaking work and hours, storms, floods, drought, grasshoppers and wars. The good years and harvests are rewarding but the hardships mean life and death. Pearl doesn't invent these hardships ' millions of Chinese starved to death and millions more died due to robbers, lords of war and rebellions. She alludes to most of these.
Wang's first love is the land but as they age, the children distract him away. We get glimpses of the rich man's life, his servants, his way of life and his abundant choice foods. In opposition, we are constantly reminded that the majority in China are destitute just barely surviving while these greedy selfish men refuse to share. His children, his eventual yielding to the flesh and his pride lead to his downfall. He is never to find the peace he so desires in old age until: 'But still one thing remained to him and it was his love for his land. He had gone away from it....But his roots were in his land and although he forgot it many months....still he must needs go and he went.' (p. 353)
The Good Earth is a real life human tragedy and it is not a book one puts down easily as it unfolds. His devotion to his children, his kindness to his wife whom he did not love and replaced with another, his disappointments with their lives and especially that not one will carry on his legacy with the land, his daughter the Fool, all these events could occur in any household and the outcomes could be the same depending if we chose the path Wang did.
The detail Pearl provides about the impoverished and the wealthy Chinese could only be grasped by one with such intimate first- hand knowledge. Typically, she also includes a handicapped child based again on her own daughter's life.
This is a classic and in many secondary schools, it is required reading. The insights into the Chinese way of life are abundant and the human experiences are lessons for anyone in any place and time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Epic Novel with Universal Appeal, Jan. 27 2004
By 
Lloyd Sakazaki (Bellevue, WA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Having heard that Ms. Buck spent most of her life in China, I began reading The Good Earth expecting an authentic, albeit fictional, portrayal of life in China in the early 1900s. The first half of the story begins in this way. Protagonist Wang Lung, in his early years of marriage and family life, represents the honest, hard-working farming peasant immersed in a man vs. nature struggle for existence and, to a lesser extent, a man vs. society challenge of social positioning. Through Wang and his wife, O-lan's, courage and strife, we see a society of contrasts: simplicity of rural life vs. luxury of city life in turn-of-the-century China, years of abundant harvests vs. occasions of widespread famine, traditional roles favoring men over women, rich landowning "great houses" vs. poor laborers and slaves, Confucian work ethic vs. idleness.
About halfway through the novel, there is a transition in both literary style and thematic content. Once Wang Lung rises to wealth, his problems become more complex. Behind the story's events, the grand themes of literature rapidly unfold: inner turmoil in relationships between men and women, husband and wife, and father, sons and grandchildren; one's destiny and duty vs. the sense of freedom that wealth and achievement bring; emotional and generational conflicts resulting from changing social values in a modernizing world; lifelong friendship and the loneliness in old age. By the end of the novel, with traditional Wang ever so fervently tied to his land while his forward-looking sons devise to sell it, the simple story about a Chinese peasant's life has fully blossomed into an epic tale about real people having truly universal appeal.
What I find most remarkable about the book is the author's presentation of the human predicament in an artistic, literary way through the ebb and flow of events in the life of our protagonist, without pausing to probe deliberately into his psychology, motivations and emotions. The character's actions and events in the novel speak for themselves and display both the author's keen understanding of human nature and her exceptional talent in painting with words a beautiful, realistic picture of human feelings and relationships.
One caveat concerning the novel is its controversial believability as a true depiction of life in China a century ago. I come away from the book certain that I have learned something about China and its culture but sensing that literary license has played a larger role in the book's creation than the author would readily acknowledge or even be aware of. In this sense, I judge the work to be more a masterpiece of realistic world fiction than a firmly grounded Chinese historical novel.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing, Dec 17 2010
By 
Heather Pearson "Heather" (Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
Published in 1931, this story is set in rural, pre-revolution China. Author Pearl S. Buck was born in the United States but moved with her family to China while she was still an infant. She lived most of her first forty years in China.

This book tells the story of a poor farmer named Wang Lung. He wants to marry, yet doesn't have to money for a match maker. His father goes to the local wealthy family, the House of Hwang, and asks for a slave to be the wife for his son.

From his wedding day forward, the fortunes of Wang and his new wife O-Lan change, mostly for the better. Not only does O-Lan run the house most efficiently, she also helps with the old father and with the farming. Two sets of hands in the fields lead to increased crop yields and money.

As I was listening to this audio book, I wondered if Mrs. Buck had accurately presented the lives of farmers in China at that time. Several reviews that I checked confirm my impressions.

Spoiler Alert

The other thing that struck me about this book was how the author was able to portray the desperation of the people during the various hardships. The stoic acceptance by O-Lan of the death of her second daughter, born during the drought. I couldn't imagine what Wang went through when he took his newborn daughter from O-Lan, knowing that he would have to let her die so the rest of them could survive, but I could feel his anguish.

Alert Over

I loved this book. It didn't matter that it was published almost 80 years ago. It still came across as fresh material and still relevant. There are still many areas of this world where people farm and try to eke out a living.

Blackstone Audio produced this audio book in 2007. It was read by Anthony Heald. Mr. Heald has a very enjoyable reading voice and it added to my enjoyment.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Unforgettable classic, Oct. 27 2008
This review is from: The Good Earth (Mass Market Paperback)
I read this book years ago and it has stayed with me ever since.
Originally published in 1931, it won the Pulitzer prize the following year.

The setting is in China, right before the revolution. Wang Lung is a poor farmer in a village and the book starts with his wedding to plain O-lan. They have four children together, three boys and one girl. He is a very hard working farmer and bit by bit, thanks also to O-lan's skills, he builds a fortune by buying land from the House of Hwangs's family, landowners in a nearest village whose wealth declines dramatically due to their relentless spending.

We are dipped into Chinese culture, taken from the seemingly bottomless poverty of the early days throughout the rise to wealth, only to be propelled downwards again due to a terrible draught and subsequent famine, when everything seems lost and the family has to move to the city, starting all over again.

We are reading spectators of the rise and fall and twists & turns of Wang Lung's family. Many touching episodes have moved me throughout the book, especially the ones connected with hard-working, silent, subservient O-lan and later on, the ones related to their mentally retarded baby girl.

The story is absorbing and mesmerizing, exquisitely written. Page after page, truly unforgettable. A must-read classic.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent story of pre-revolutionary China, March 11 2004
Pearl S. Buck's novel of China at the turn of the 20th century, seen through the eyes of one peasant family, is a masterpiece of contemporary literature. It's the rags-to-riches story of Wang Lung, a subsistence farmer whose aged father purchases a wife for him to bring him children to carry on the family line. The old man finds him a wife who spent her childhood as a servant in a rich house. O-lan was too homely to be raped by the rich master or his sons, but her virginity is prized by the old man and Wang Lung. She is the perfect wife for the younger man, hardworking, self-denying, bearing him children with clockwork regularity. For a few years, the family prospers. But a peasant farmer is always at the mercy of the elements, and a disastrous drought sends them south to beg in the streets for their survival. A chance find of a rich man's hidden treasure by O-lan means not only their salvation, but the end of poverty. Wang Lung brings his family home to prosperity and buys more land to consolidate his wealth; eventually, he owns the house and land of the same wealthy man who sold him O-lan.
But as Wang Lung's fortunes prosper, he undergoes an insidious transformation. A rich man like him has no need for an ugly peasant wife like O-lan. He buys himself a concubine and sets her up in his house. Ashamed of his own illiteracy, he sends his sons to school. They grow up rich and spoiled, and take rich, spoiled wives. The sons don't want to work on the land; they look down their noses at the peasant class they came from. The family moves into the big house the rich man used to live in, and to the discomfiture and resentment of the villagers, Wang Lung becomes every day more like the rich man he so resented when he was poor himself, despising the unwashed masses. It is only as he grows old that Wang Lung's ties to the land assert themselves above everything else; his sole wish is to die in his father's home on the farm he grew up in. It's the curse of his life that his sons are indifferent to the land he loves.
Pearl Buck was raised in China and her love of the land and its people is evident throughout the book. Through her story of Wang Lung and his family we see the beginnings of the transformation of China from an agricultural to an industrial society and the profound changes this will bring on the country and its society. She continued the story through two sequels, but neither has the simple power and brilliance of the first. "The Good Earth" is her finest book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Book Review for "The Good Earth", Feb. 17 2004
By 
sunny (Taipei, Taiwan) - See all my reviews
¡§The Good Earth¡ is a classic book people definitely from all ages have to read. The language isn¡t too complicated to understand, but Pearl Buck uses vivid details and descriptions to inform the reader the entire life of the main character, Wang Lung. Through this book, Pearl Buck takes you into another dimension, back in time while China was encountering the Boxers Rebellion. She reveals to you the pain and agony the majority of the population were experiencing. The book portrays the life of Wang Lung, the protagonist of the book. He is a peasant farmer, who goes through the stages of affluence and property. From a well-off farmer with a few properties, to being forced to leave his hometown with nothing but his cow and family. Forced to start a new living in another area, he strives to support his children and wife with a new job. The family worked together to rebuild their lives, as they gradually found prosperity through the pre-revolutionary China in the 1920s. In the end, Wang Lung buys more property from the house of Hwang, where his loyal wife, O-lan used to work in. Their family has finally come back on track, and climbed all the way to the top, with children well educated, and wealthy.
Reading this book allows me to feel very relaxed because it doesn¡t make me feel as if it is another school-required, tedious, book; with incomprehensible language that always requires a dictionary at hand. It allows the reader to comprehend a different culture people hundreds of years ago lived like. I enjoyed this book greatly, and recommend to all readers who are patient enough for one excellent detailed story. In addition, readers who long for a meaningful, relaxing, educational, detailed, and exciting book to read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent story and a fine fable, Feb. 9 2004
By 
Tyler Tanner (Los Angeles, CA United States) - See all my reviews
I'll be the first to admit, the premise of this book is not the most appealing. The life of a struggling peasant farmer in rural China during the turn of the century did not strike me as being a page turner. But Pearl S. Buck made me a fan after the first twenty pages and I could not put it down. At the urgings of my friends who knew that I was a fan of historical fiction I picked this one up. The story is thoughtful, told with compassion, and surprisingly fast paced. The characters are fascinating and are the main element that kept me reading. The unconventional protagonist is Wang Lung. A very self aware and sincere farmer whose story is told in third person but soley from his point of view. He marries a slave girl, O-lan, from the nearby village. They come to love each other not with passion, but with unspoken admiration and respect. Whats more is that they both earn the respect of the reader. O-lan clearly lives a hard life and has been given a bad hand, even sometimes at Wang Lungs doing, but it is hard to see her as a victim becuase does not see herself as one.
Before finishing this book I became so sure that I liked the authors work that I bought Pavillion of Women. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that this was a Pulitzer prize winner over seventy years ago. Obtusely dismissing those books as stuffy and pretentious, I now look forward to reading those as well. Especially if they are written with such earnestness as this fine fable.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good and solid, Jan. 8 2004
By 
"The Good Earth" is justly called a classic. Its straightforward language makes it a breezy read, while its scope remains broad, telling more or less an entire life story. The story is notable for its painstaking, flat realism; its tone remains almost the same whether its protagonist Wang Lung, a peasant farmer, is in good times of prosperity or harsh times of near-starvation, whether he expresses his good side (honesty, hard work, kindness) or his bad side (indulgence, anger, thoughtlessness). For all his faults, we end up caring about the main character. In this the book is a very human, and apparently realistic, view of turn-of-the century China. The cyclical and ever-changing fortunes of its characters mirror the cycles of the land for which the book is named. Somehow the story remains engrossing as it rambles on for page after page about matters both large and small in one man's life. Despite a few inconsistencies (at one point it says "many years later" and proceeds to describe something that is happening in the very same year), loose ends (why did Pear Blossom hate men so?) and frequent stylistic repetitions ("of this and of that," "well, and..."), the book holds up as sturdily in the long run as the land itself.
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5.0 out of 5 stars COMPLEX...COMPELLING...CLASSIC..., Jan. 2 2004
By 
Lawyeraau (Balmoral Castle) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This 1932 Pulitzer Prize winning novel is still a standout today. Deceptive in its simplicity, it is a story built around a flawed human being and a teetering socio-economic system, as well as one that is layered with profound themes. The cadence of the author's writing is also of note, as it rhythmically lends itself to the telling of the story, giving it a very distinct voice. No doubt the author's writing style was influenced by her own immersion in Chinese culture, as she grew up and lived in China, the daughter of missionaries.

This is the story of the cyclical nature of life, of the passions and desires that motivate a human being, of good and evil, and of the desire to survive and thrive against great odds. It begins with the story of an illiterate, poor, peasant farmer, Wang Lung, who ventures from the rural countryside and goes to town to the great house of Hwang to obtain a bride from those among the rank of slave. There, he is given the slave O-lan as his bride.

Selfless, hardworking, and a bearer of sons, the plain-faced O-lan supports Wang Lung's veneration of the land and his desire to acquire more land. She stays with him through thick and thin, through famine and very lean times, working alongside him on the land, making great sacrifices, and raising his children. As a family, they weather the tumultuousness of pre-revolutionary China in the 1920s, only to find themselves the recipient of riches beyond their dreams. At the first opportunity, they buy land from the great house of Hwang, whose expenses appear to be exceeding their income.

With the passing of time, Wang Lung buys more and more land from the house of Hwang, until he owns it all, as his veneration of the land is always paramount. With O-lan at this side, his family continues to prosper. His life becomes more complicated, however, the richer he gets. Wang Lung then commits a life-changing act that pierces O-lan's heart in the most profoundly heartbreaking way.

As the years pass, his sons become educated and literate, and the family continues to prosper. With the great house of Hwang on the skids, an opportunity to buy their house, the very same house from where he had fetched O-lan many years ago, becomes available. Pressed upon to buy that house by his sons, who do not share Wang Lung's veneration for the land and rural life, he buys the house. The country mice now have become city mice.

This is a potent, thematically complex story, brimming with irony, yet simply told against a framework of mounting social change. It is a story that stands as a parable in many ways and is one that certainly should be read. It illustrates the timeless dichotomy between the young and the old, the old and the new, and the rich and the poor. It is no wonder that this beautifully written book won a Pulitzer Prize and is considered a classic masterpiece. Bravo!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Authentic Chinese story - I can't believe she was American!, Dec 21 2003
By A Customer
While reading this book, I was totally struck by the honest and compassionate way Pearl Buck told her story. Born and raised in China, I can see my great grandparents in Wang Lung and his wife O-Lan, although in the end they didn't make it to the riches but stayed in the middle class among farmers and had put all their kids through schools which was the first ever in their village.
What I love most about this book is that it shows the Westerners what life was REALLY like in rural China at the turn of the century instead of the usual stereotype or common cliche. In that sense, Pearl Buck was more Chinese than Chinese, for Amy Tan, Dai SiJie and the alike are just commercial writers in my opinion, who more or less only wrote what they thought would sell.
The book itself is certainly well written too. It's as if walking through a living museum of the past and one could vividly envision what Wang Lung and O-Lan had gone through as the story unfolds. Pearl Buck used simple yet powerful narrative language in which I felt Wang Lung's pain, suffering, ambition, agony, pride and all sorts of emotions and couldn't help but empathized with him as a human being.
There are also small things that delighted me in Perl Buck's writing. To name just one, she had faithfully translated the characters' dialogs into English and I have to say you can't get more authentic than that. For example, she used moon for month, old head for old man, etc., and those are exactly how we say in Chinese, literally.
It's a pity that neither in the US nor in China Pearl Buck is recognized or respected as much as she should have been. Though I went to Nanjing University where Pearl Buck had taught for years in China, little have I heard of her until just now, after finishing the Good Earth. Then I found that she also did a lot of humanitarian work in addition to writing after her return to the US, including pushing for the legalization of interracial/international adoptions that now has benefited so many families.
I would recommend Camel XiangZi by Lao, She ( Original in Chinese and translation in English available) which is the tale of a urban pedicab driver in the same era if you enjoy the Good Earth. I think the two authors have similar styles in story-telling.
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The Good Earth
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck (Mass Market Paperback - March 29 2005)
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