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A Thousand Acres: A Novel Paperback – December 2, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
But, really, I shouldn't have. Having previously read two books by Jane Smiley (the quite amusing MOO and the intelligent and thoughtful Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel), I should have given her the benefit of the doubt. Within the first fifty pages, I was surprised that Smiley had drawn me into her story, and while it was still fairly mundane (the family dog wasn't going to start talking on page 100, to my dismay), I found the voice of the narrator intriguing and wondered just how much of King Lear Smiley was going to be able to transpose to 1970s Iowa.Read more ›
Those who will love this book the most are people who know farm life in the American Middle West well. Having had a grandfather, father and several uncles who were farmers in Illinois raising lots of corn and hogs, I was first impressed by how well Ms. Smiley captured the attitudes, experiences, psychology and perspectives of the American family farmer during the 1930s through the 1980s. I felt like I was reading the history of my own family for about the first third of the book.
Then, she powerfully shifts the ground as the patriarch of the family, Larry Cook, decides to cede control over the family farm to avoid estate taxes. From there, a superficial reading will see this as a modern version of King Lear. I think that obvious parallel is not an accurate view of the book. Instead, this book takes on the qualities of a Greek tragedy as the characters move inexorably towards their preordained fates. What's the source of the tragedy? It's the pride of the American family farmer who lusts for more land and production.
In fact, this book could have been titled "Life Drains Away" as the forces set into action by the characters create an ironic threat to some of the same characters.Read more ›
That said, I can now declare that I think *A Thousand Acres* is a good, but not "great" novel. Jane Smiley is an excellent writer, and although the book starts a bit slowly, the momentum and intrigue build as pages fly by. Her ability to describe the landscapes, moods, and rhythms of midwestern farm life is commendable, and for me, this proved to be perhaps the most consistently satisfying aspect of the book.
The plot can only be described as "dark," perhaps excessively so to seem plausible. Incest, insanity, suicide, the casual plotting of vengeful murders--anything that might form the basis for an extended commentary on the possibilities for depravity in the Human Condition--it's all here! There is so much depravity here, in fact, that after a while I found myself (figuratively) rolling my eyes at each new twist in the plot. A bit over the top, Jane!
I confess that I found it dismaying that each and every male character in the book proved himself to be rotten, exhibiting behavior ranging anywhere from insensitive clottishness to manipulative and smarmy don Juanism to ranting, bullying, incest-practicing insanity. What a bunch of great guys! In all fairness, the women in the book aren't much better.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Engrossing, thought provoking, surprising plot twists and turns.Published 14 days ago by Helen L. Worcester
Fabulous - Jane Smiley outdid herself here. Incredible story-telling and scene-setting - you want to go to Kansas or Iowa? Just read this novel and save the air-fare. Read morePublished 25 days ago by stephen f king
Great literature, but too detailed for me, an amateur writer myself.Published 28 days ago by Graham B. Fellows
This is a tragedy in the classic literary sense. It's the story of the demise of an American family farm, but more important it is the story of the demise of an American family by... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Cathryn Conroy
I ordinarily enjoy Jane Smiley's work, but this book wasn't one of her better efforts. The story line was implausible. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Donna M. Leiss
Deserved the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Well written novel about a dysfunctional farm family with a patriarch similar to the King Lear.Published 2 months ago by Onlineshopper
A Thousand Acres was a heavy, depressing book featuring the harsh realities of life for women on farms in years past, that I read because it was chosen by a book club I'm in. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Anita Kelley Harris