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on November 14, 2014
What a wonderful book and so beautifully written. I'm now reading the second book in the trilogy and it is great too. Pearl S. Buck is such a talented author and writes so descriptively that you feel like you are right there. Her knowledge of China and their customs makes this book a must read.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 25, 2010
The Good Earth is Pearl S. Buck's masterpiece and a signature twentieth century novel. A vast bestseller and multiple prize winner on release, it remains widely read and loved. It is the story of Wang Lung, a Chinese man who almost literally goes from rags to riches, encountering many ups and downs along the way. He is far from perfect, but this only makes him more relatable; he is thoroughly human, and we sympathize with and relate to him because we see ourselves in him. We truly feel with and for him, rejoicing in his triumphs and sharing his struggles much as if they were ours - as of course they largely are. The Chinese setting may be alien to many, but the story is in the best sense universal. Though not long at about 350 pages, it has a vast, sweeping feel that draws us in immediately and never lets go; I read it in a day, almost in one setting, as many others surely have and will. It is tremendously engrossing, showing the depths to which humanity can sink and the heights to which it can climb. Nearly every aspect of human life is shown, along with many thoughts and emotions; this is a profoundly emotional book that lingers in the mind long after reading. I read it years ago but still recall it almost as vividly as when I finished - a truly rare occurrence with the hundreds or thousands of books I have read. The novel shows, as few works do, life's grand sweep and the vast richness - which does not always mean sweetness - of human life.

The book is also of significant historical value for its penetrating insight into pre-revolutionary China. We get a good idea of how early twentieth century Chinese, especially rural ones, lived and thought. The vast sociopolitical changes that soon swept the country can be seen in embryo; they profoundly changed a culture that had been effectively the same for at least a millennium, making The Good an important lasting monument to a culture that is no more.

Buck's style is deceptively simple - concise and unadorned yet greatly alluring. She describes Chinese culture with unflinching accuracy, lacking sentimentality, apology, or critique. Many Westerners will be shocked that events like those in the book went on in the twentieth century, but Buck shows them for what they were when nearly anyone else would criticize or at least comment. She knows better, letting them speak for themselves in a way that makes the book truly Modernist despite the straight-forward story and prose. Yet her great respect for Chinese history and culture, and of the titular earth then so central to it, shines clearly. This is a major attraction for many, as the novel is in many ways almost an ethnography; it is a great opportunity to learn about an important culture with which many are unfamiliar and may lead them to find out more about China.

All told, this fine novel is highly recommended for anyone even remotely interested in China as well as anyone looking for a well-told, highly moving story from which much can be learned.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon May 16, 2006
The Good Earth is first and foremost a Good Story--a rich tale with a strong cast of characters woven together with a simple but deep storytelling technique. The story will mean different things to different people, but to me it was above all about family function and dysfunction, the importance of keeping ones feet in the "good earth," and the tragedies that arise when the poor become too poor and the rich become too rich. Buck's mastery is in weaving these distinct themes into a coherent story, one with the power to reach across time and distance to remain important even now.

The Good Earth is also an Improbable Story, as common sense would suggest that the first-person account of a male Chinese farmer told by an American woman "shouldn't work." Neither should the dialogue style, which defies description. To me it often read like a literal translation of a Chinese conversation filtered through Pennsylvania Dutch--or perhaps it is colonial English? Feudal English? It was English, yes, but an English unlike any actually spoken. Buck's knowledge of the Chinese language and culture makes it work, and it allows her to create a world truly her own. This frees her from the need to use limiting linguistic devices such as the insertion of "real" Chinese words or the equally disorienting use of colloquial English in a setting that is clearly not colloquial in an attempt to make the characters seem more authentic somehow. Buck takes a risk in creating characters who speak like this, but it pays off.

A simple story, yet full of meaning and poignancy, The Good Earth is a timeless and universal story. Although there are many differences between pre-Revolutionary China and the current times, the family dynamics, human nature, triumphs, and tragedies portrayed in this book are no less relevant. A Pulitzer Prize winner written by a Nobel Prize winner, this book and author deserve the accolades they were given.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 9, 2000
It is the start of the Communist take over of China, the era of change. China had two distinct classes of people---the rich and poor. The rich, so enveloped in their high-class lives, were unconcerned with the realities of the country. The poor knew too well all of the plagues, floods, famines, and the war ragging around them. The downfall of the old aristocracy was caused by their immense greed. This is where Wang Lung entered. Because of their decay, he was able to buy more land and become wealthy from it. However, a great mistake this farmer made was building it according to the old system. He separated himself from the land, and allowed his sons to be away from the land, which in turn caused his downfall. Though the book was written as a third person narrative, it tells the story of Wang Lung's rise from poverty to riches. Everything that happened was described as he saw or experienced it. The narrator told his thoughts or feelings but rarely shared those of the other characters. The way Buck presented the events that directly happened to Wang Lung limits our understanding of the world around them. By using this unique and somewhat limiting point of view and setting the story against the background of the Communist take over of China, Pearl Buck created a new twist on the rags to riches story. The most predominate theme throughout the book was the connection between man and the land that he worked. As a man put his life into his land, he reaped more benefits and wealth. Throughout the book, Wang Lung repeatedly reflected back on the wonderful feeling that he had whenever he plowed and worked his land. Whenever he was working with O-Lan, his quiet but strong wife, he felt as though he was in harmony with her. The land supplied stability and he was always transferring any monetary gain into more land. Whenever he went away from the land, his family started to decline. Another important issue that Buck repeated was the role of women. The way she subtly commented on the status of the Chinese woman had great emotional impact. Throughout the book, no matter what role the woman had in the house, they were always subservient to men. The principle function of the woman was to bear sons. Wang Lung and O-Lan did not even name their first girl; he just called her "slave" or "poor little fool." Two more important factors in the make up of The Good Earth were family and religion. The family was the central unit in Chinese society. There was a strong respect for the elderly, which had long been a tradition in Wang Lung's family. He was forced to aid his uncle because he was family and an elder. Wang Lung, however, thought his uncle brought disgrace upon his family name. Religion also played an important role in Chinese society. In Wang Lung's society of farmers, they were very superstitious and worshiped two earthen gods that would protect their crops. Whenever Wang Lung carried his first born son home, he realized that he was attracting bad luck. He hid the baby while saying aloud, "It is nothing but a slave girl." All of these themes contributed to this wonderful work of literature. However, the way Buck kept her characters performing in the same way might be the greatest part of the book. All of their actions and thoughts kept with their personalities. Even though this is true, they were so complex that you could not stereotype them. Wang Lung was not just a farmer, but his actions were fundamentally those of a farmer. O-Lan was an honest, hardworking woman, yet she stole from a rich man's house during a riot. Buck used these tools to successfully recreate the life of a poor farmer that raised himself out of the dirt that he worked so hard to the lavish life of being a wealthy landowner.
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on July 24, 2014
I was prompted to read this after falling in love with the film based on this book. It is quite different than its source material, much more somber in tone and themes of property, family, and even sexuality are fleshed out in detail. I enjoyed it, and I am happy that it will stay on my mind.
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on June 29, 2010
Probably one of the most important books about women to be written, especially from an historical sense. And although there are cultural differences, the woman is still the same... The birth of the child is most compelling, dramatic, and so under-told and true. A rich book for a poor woman.
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on December 19, 2012
This is a classic that was chosen for our book club. It's one that transports you to another time and culture. It really sticks with you. Days later I'm still reflecting on this. I wanted to rewrite the ending so they all lived happily and wisely ever after, yet that's not as realistic.
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on July 10, 2009
This is an excellent read. Pearl S. Buck is a highly intelligent writer with character and insight as she tells the story of China. It lets you see inside the person, what makes them do what they do. It shows the unselfishness and gratitude of the wife and mother - a deep and abiding love.
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on May 30, 2015
Why did I wait so long to read this wonderful book? This is the second book by Buck that I have read she was a fantastic writer. she knows her subjects well and writes about them with heart felt understanding and interest. This book is a must read for anyone who loves good literature.
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on August 27, 2013
This is a riveting story, well worth reading. Simple yet profound. It's one of those good novels that makes the reader think, about himself or herself, about life in general, about people----it is extremely thought-provoking, like any good novel.
This one is unique. Don't miss it.
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