Customer Reviews


847 Reviews
5 star:
 (528)
4 star:
 (174)
3 star:
 (68)
2 star:
 (23)
1 star:
 (54)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


292 of 307 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A PROFOUND STORY SIMPLY TOLD...
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...
Published on September 18, 2004 by Lawyeraau

versus
38 of 44 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good serious novel
I was reluctant to start the book which, tagged with the label of classic, seemed destined to be depressing. And you know what? It was depressing. But it was also good.

It traces the life of a Chinese farmer named Wang Lung from the day of his wedding to a faithful slave named Olan until his last days on earth. In the beginning of the book, Wang Lung is a...
Published on October 20, 2004 by Matt Hetling


‹ Previous | 1 285 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

292 of 307 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A PROFOUND STORY SIMPLY TOLD..., September 18, 2004
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 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!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


130 of 135 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Authentic Chinese story - I can't believe she was American!, December 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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


73 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Transcends Space and Time!, July 4, 2003
Every soul that has the ability to read should absorb this book! These are the lessons we all encounter at some point in our lives.

Wang Lung and his family's journey through life serves as a passage we all can travel through and come away better people for having done it. His wife O-lan represented such great strength, and I hurt when I knew she was hurting from the actions of her husband but was unable to show it. Her life went the way of so many women's lives, unfulfilled and short-changed. Likewise, I hurt when Wang Lung hurt. I felt his confusion, guilt, stubbornness, etc. These are brilliantly crafted people that I am honored to have met.

I totally understand why this book transcends space and time. Over 30 years after her death, Pearl S. Buck's legacy is still changing people for the better....thank God for good storytelling.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


49 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brilliant Way to Understand China, May 26, 2002
When great political upheaval occurs, do the "ordinary people" even know about it? How does it affect their lives? Is social change something palpable, or only something one can see in retrospect?

These questions are addressed in Pearl Buck's moving and exquisitely written Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel, "The Good Earth." It is the story of a simple Chinese peasant, Wang Lung. We first meet him as a young man on his way to pick up his bride, whom he has purchased from the estate of a wealthy landowner.
Wang Lung is a farmer, barely able to survive, but it is time for him to marry and produce a grandchild for his aged father, who lives in his simple farm hut and is shown great reverence, as was the way in China at the time.
The only way that Wang Lung could afford a wife at all, and a virgin, which was highly desired, was to purchase an ugly female slave from the great house. All of the pretty slave women were defiled by the master and his sons early on; O-lan was so ugly that she was spared. Harsh? Evil? Yes. But the story is told with such simplicity, from the viewpoint of Wang Lung, who knows no other life. Which is one of Buck's points: the simple Chinese peasant, struggling to survive, had no wherewithal to stand back and say, "I should not be buying an undefiled slave from a corrupt landowner who keeps me in virtual slavery as well." It just didn't happen that way.

O-Lan turns out to be the perfect farmer's wife, hardworking, efficient, and, it turns out, wonderfully fertile. The scene where the young woman painfully gives birth in the field during harvest time and then goes back to work without missing a beat is almost a cliche by now. But in the book, it gives great insight into the strength of character that the silent O-Lan possesses, a strength that will save her family time and again, during good years and famine times, when she is forced to murder a newborn daughter so that the rest of her children might survive.

Against the framework of tremendous social change, the simple story of this one family gives us a framework within which we can observe its effect on ordinary people. The tremendous difference between the innocent and humble Wang Lung of the beginning of the book, and the prosperous and slightly corrupt elderly man at the end, is simply astoundingly written.
This book is Pearl Buck's single greatest work. She went on to become a prolific writer, and many of her books were brilliant, but none ever touched the simple genius of "The Good Earth."
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pride is his undoing~, March 9, 2005
This is an easy book to read. The story is one that is totally universal; power corrupts and distorts us, on any level. The main character is a poor farmer who works hard but is just holding even with life. When he takes a bride, a slave girl who is plain quiet, his life turns around. As Wang Lung's fortunes change for the better - mostly due to the additional help of his new bride, his character shifts with his growing purse. Greed, pride and materialism take root in his soul. This isn't about a man who goes mad as he becomes a king; this is about the slow slide down as a man goes from being a poor farmer to a landowner. Not grandly wealthy by "city" standards, but wealthy from his own perspective. He is unable and unwilling to grasp how it's his wife's work that has brought him to this wealth. It's a story about how having nothing, and then getting a little something can make us want more and more. Pride and greed rob Wang Yung of his daily joys.

This story has staying power. I read it a few months ago and it continues to wind its way through my mind. I have re-examined my own desires and my own definition of wealth. It's worth the read, easy to digest and a very pleasurable tale.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timeless Story About Life, February 13, 2007
By 
J. E. Nelson (Plainfield, Illinois) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
When I read "The Good Earth" in high school, I thought it was a boring book about some Chinese farmer named Wang Lung. When I read the book again at the age of 31, I found the book to be an exciting, timeless read about life.

The Good Earth is a rags to riches tale about a farmer named Wang Lung. The book takes places in old world China. Wang Lung starts his adult life as a landowner, farmer, living off of what he grows. In the Old World tradition, he is taking care of his elder father. After a few good years, Wang Lung buys a slave from the rich house in town for his wife. After settling and being satisfied in married life, the remainder of the book is about the journey of Wang Lung from a poor farmer to the richest person in the area.

The plot of the book is simple and timeless. It is a rags to riches tale of a farmboy. Wang Lung's journey to fortune is filled with good and bad. The messages in the book are just as valid today as they were centuries ago, such as:

The world is full of great equalizers that affect the poor and rich alike. There are events that happen that will cause the rich and poor alike to struggle for their lives. If you happen to be one of the rich during this time, you will become the target of the poor.

Money is the great corrupter. As Wang Lung gained more wealth, he was no longer satisfied with this good life with a loyal wife and many children. With more money, Wang Lung wanted more extras in his life. In the end, he realizes that happiness can't be bought. Life was best when it was at its basics, Wang Lung and the land.

If a child is spoiled, they will be a soiled child. A spoiled child is an ungrateful child. In trying to provide a good life for his children, Wang Lung creates spoiled children who all turn on him, sometimes without their father's knowledge.

There are few novels that are so great that they transcend all barriers and applies equally to life 1000 years ago as well as life 1000 years from now. The Good Earth is one of these books. At least in my case, the book had different meanings, depending on where I was in life. As I said in the beginning, in High school this book was about some poor farmer, in adulthood the book was about life.

The book is action packed, but not the type of shoot'em up, explosions, and car chase type of action American society is used to. Because of this, some people may find this to be a slow read. However, I think this book is one that should be read by all. This is one of the few books from High School English that I found a lot of meaning in later in life.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read it many times, still enthralled..., February 11, 2001
I stumbled across this book years ago in my high school library, and I have never been the same. I am so glad that I was never forced to read this book in school and that it wasn't ruined for me by English teachers. It's sad to think that this has happened for many students because it is a breathtaking book. If you have never read this book, please do. If required reading in school gave you a bad taste in your mouth for this book, pick it up again and give it another try...read it for yourself and in your own way. It is a wonderful book...a treasured favorite on my bookcase.
For most Americans, _The Good Earth_ will be a shock. It is a very foreign, alien book with people interacting in ways very different from our own society. _The Good Earth_ takes place in rural, pre-Communist China. It's the story of a farmer and his family and how they acquire land and wealth and the lifealtering changes (for the better and definitely for the worse) that result from the corrupting power of money. This book gives a valuable glimpse into the Chinese concept of filial duty. The family relationships and obligations may surprise many Americans who function under a much different dynamic. The relationships between men and women are also strikingly different and can be very disturbing. But the book as a whole is a lovingly rendered story that draws the reader into caring about the characters.
As time passes in the book, the reader has the unique privilege of growing and maturing with the family. As you turn the last page and read the final word, your mind and soul will thank you for the enriching experience. I strongly recommend this book.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A PROFOUND STORY SIMPLY TOLD..., June 26, 2005
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!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


38 of 44 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good serious novel, October 20, 2004
I was reluctant to start the book which, tagged with the label of classic, seemed destined to be depressing. And you know what? It was depressing. But it was also good.

It traces the life of a Chinese farmer named Wang Lung from the day of his wedding to a faithful slave named Olan until his last days on earth. In the beginning of the book, Wang Lung is a hard working farmer, but poor and subject to the hardships that complete dependence on the land brings. His wife O-lan brings about a small measure of prosperity, as she joins him as a partner in the prospect of improving their finances through hard work. They are even able to buy a new piece of land from the great House of Hwang, where Olan lived as a slave throughout her maidenhood.

After they have their third child, a drought-induced famine strikes, driving Wang-Lung from the land which he loves and into the city in search of food. O-lan and the children and Wang Lung's father beg in the streets, while Wang Lung works carrying a ricksha. The life they live is hard, and they are barely able to subsist, living in a hut they have built of mats (following the example of the other poor).

War and rioting break out in the city, and Wang Lung is carried into a rich man's house by a throng of looters. By chance, he finds himself alone in a room with a rich man who is terrified for his life, and he extorts a large amount of gold from him before sending him away. At the same time, his wife has found a loose brick behind which is a store of jewels worth a fortune. They return back to the farming land of the north, and use the money to buy more land and sow the seeds of a farming empire.

The second half of the book deals with the troubles that beset Wang Lung as a rich man, and these are less compelling than his battles against starvation.

The book held my interest, and is most useful as a look into the social strata that made up China in the early 1900s. Themes that run throughout the book are the mistreatment of women without thought, the differences that money makes in social standing, and the corrupting influence of a life of ease.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolute MUST-READ..., April 1, 2003
By 
momwith2kids (Chicago, IL United States) - See all my reviews
This is a wonderful novel with many classic themes, surrounding the life of Wang Lung, who started out as a poor farmer in China, ending up as a father of six, and a wealthy landowner. Also, it's a alarming portrayal of what life was like in 19th century China. Reading this book sparks my interest not only in reading others by Pearl Buck, but also what life was like for the author growing up in China herself, though that's probably already been revealed in her novels.
One of the most beautiful themes in this book is the power of nature. Not only were everyone's lives at the mercy of the heavens and the land, but the land often, (though not always) reminded Wang Lung from where he came. Many times he forgot that everything that happened to this man related back to the earth. His luck, whether good or bad, his happiness, his frustration, could always be traced back to the earth.
This story has a lot of sad irony. One being that the grass was always greener on the other side for Wang Lung, plus the fact that he didn't appreciate what he had until it was gone. Wang Lung changed so much when his fortune improved, becoming callous and ungrateful for what he had. At times it seemed like he was happier when he was poor. O-Lan, his first wife, stood behind him from the beginning, and was many times the catalyst towards his rise to riches; bearing sons, silently taking care of him, his father, their children and their little home, stealing jewels when they were stranded in the city, relentlessly helping him in the fields. She was a picture of unbelievable strength, resolve, and selflessness. How quickly her husband forgot these things when times changed for the better, thus taking Lotus as his concubine. The most heartwrenching part of this book was O-lan, whose heart was broken time after time.
Pearl Buck wrote in such a simplistic, factual style, yet the story itself kept me glued from the very first page. Every now and then, however, she took my breath away with just a sentence that revealed so much emotion: "And out of his heaviness, there stood out strangely but one clear thought and it was a pain to him, and it was this, that he wished he had not taken the two pearls from O-Lan that day when she was washing his clothes at the pool, and he would never bear to see Lotus put them in her ears again."
Though Wang Lung wasn't portrayed simply as a "bad" person. Like the earth itself, he had his faults and assets, and as he aged, he remembered these good things he had, when faced with new, more complicated troubles, involving his expanding family and wealth...his concubine, his slaves, his uncle and cousin, his sons now growing up in a wealthy household, becoming accustomed to standards much higher than Wang Lung ever experienced.
One thing I didn?t realize is that "The Good Earth" is the first of a trilogy centered on the family of Wang Lung. Now I'm reading "Sons," of which I also can't put down, for entirely different reasons. However, I loved "The Good Earth." It's a beautiful and enlightening story.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 285 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

Search these reviews only
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.