30 Oct 2016

(HOUSE OF EARTH #1): THE GOOD EARTH.


BACK COVER BLURB: In the reign of the last emperor a servant woman married a humble man. Together they began an epic journey ...

When O-lan, a servant girl, marries the peasant Wang Lung, she toils tirelessly through four pregnancies for their family's survival. Reward at first is meagre, but there is sustenance in the land - until the famine comes. 

Half-starved, the family joins thousands of peasants to beg on the city streets. It seems that all is lost, until O-lan's desperate will to survive returns them home with undreamt of wealth. But they have betrayed the earth from which true wealth springs, and the family's money breeds only mistrust, deception - and heartbreak for the woman who had saved them.

FIRST SENTENCE {1}: It was Wang Lung's marriage day.

MEMORABLE MOMENT {Page 78/9}: Wang Lung shook his head helplessly. In his bosom lay the slight, skeleton-like body of his girl child, and he looked down into the delicate bony face, and into the sharp, sad eyes that watched unceasingly from his breast. When he caught those eyes in his glance, invariably there wavered upon the child's face a flickering smile that broke his heart.

SOURCE: A library book.

MY THOUGHTS: A novel that follows the rise ad falls of the Lung's in pre-Revolutionary China. A novel that on the face of it is about a very simple people. Wang a poor but ambitious (one could argue overly ambitious) peasant married to the seemingly subservient O-Lan and, latterly, their descendants.

What I considered to be a pretty much one dimensional character. Arguably the most interesting thing about Wang was the way in which the author portrayed cultural/societal influences (influences that may or may not have been correct, I don't know enough about this period to make a judgement) as having shaped him into the man he was. Of much more depth was O-Lan. Loving spirited female characters as I do .. thrifty, adept, uncomplaining, I so enjoyed that in O-Lan we had a character with such silent inner strength. 

Perhaps a novel read 'at the wrong time' in so much as read at another time I may well not have found it all so, well, relentlessly depressing, so totally unsparing in its oppression of women and horrific in its depiction of the horrors of life at this time in China's history.

OK, so maybe a totally realistic portrayal - I admit to having read little historical fiction based in China at this time let alone knowing much of the facts - but I'm afraid I found it all too bleak to say nothing of the fact that I found myself worrying (maybes unnecessarily) that here was a novel possibly perpetuating a lot of largely negative stereotypes. 

The Good Earth was read for the 2016 Book Challenge 'A Book I Should Have Read In School' category.


7 comments:

Brian Joseph said...

I have never read this but it has been on my radar for decades.


Some of your criticisms of of this book are things that others have also noted. It may be that this work should mostly be looked at as a pice of history rather then a great novel.

Kelly said...

I was looking forward to your review of this and find all of what you said very interesting. I've not read this, though it's one I've always felt maybe I should. It might have even been mentioned at book club as a possibility (or maybe that was The Grapes of Wrath).

Anyway.... I'm not looking for depressing right now nor is literature set in Asia a favorite of mine. So, unless it's requested by someone at book club, I don't think I'll be reading this.

Suko said...

Thank you for your honest review, Tracy. I have not read this, but I have been interested in doing so for quite a few years. Although you found it bleak I may still read it at some point in time.

Melliane said...

I don't think I knew about this one I confess. But I don't know if it would be for me

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

Hm... I like the setting but not your distress at the possibility of perpetuating a stereotype. I do think I'll pass but this is a brilly review!

Brandi Kosiner said...

Aw, sorry to hear that he felt so one dimensional

The Bookworm said...

I have heard of this one before, but I think I'd have to be in the mood for it. It sounds draining.