Friday, 7 August 2015

Book Review: The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck- Review by Jon

The Good Earth was a very different kind of story from many that I have read over the years.  I had certain expectations in regards to things story lines did not follow in Pearl S. Buck's telling of the life story that would take place that did not happen.  The typical predictable society by having a family before being reduced once again by famine of Wang Lung, a lower class rural Chinese farmer who raises his place in farm work and his love of the land. And ultimately re-establishing his prior wealth and eventually surpassing his prior social standing by making smart decisions relative to this Wang Lung is often not a very sympathetic figure. 

Of course we are not reading a story about someone who is trying to fit into a 21st century environment, or the First World environment that I have grown up in.  More recent social concepts of equality of the sexes have no place in Wang Lung's world. As such he often treats his extremely faithful wife O-lan, a former slave to the high house of Wang, much like a piece of property and not as a person might be expected to treat their wife today. 

Also Wang Lung's children are more a source of pride for the status they are male children whom he has a special sense of pride in tend to develop provide him, as he take's a limited roll in raring them.  Ultimately his with a sense of entitlement that creates a distance between them and in a house much less reflective of the house he grew up in, and as such their father.  

Wang Lung often fit the societal roll that he was expected to fit into once he gained wealth and became established. The hard work that he had reaped from the good earth and built his name in the town upon fell way in part to a life of extravagance and luxury the likes of which he experienced afar from the house of Wang, until they day he became like the great lords of the House of Wang.

I expected more insightfulness from Wang Lung then he exhibited, but the fact that he lived as he did was likely much more reflective of a true ompletely noble and heroic characters.  Wang Lung WAS heroic in his own to life story then of a fictional novel where it's easy to create ways, but in a very true sense and not the fictional sense it's easy to appeared to be the equal measure of his values, making him simply a man want or expect from the feature character in a novel.  His faults often and not anyone extraordinary. 

There are so many redeemable qualities in Wang Lung's character but also
so many things that I would look at as failings, but given his place in time would likely not be considered failings in a rural, ancient Chinese society.   So while I expected more of him on many occasions and was let down by many of his decisions in the novel I do not think that those decisions would have been viewed with such a critical eye in the world Wang Lung existed in.

I really enjoyed a glimpse into ancient Chinese Culture and curse throughout Wang Lung's journey.  Wang Lung did not stand up to his tradition, and how the importance of family was both a blessing and while in some ways Wang Lung's wealth made him very powerful, He was also easily controlled by the whims of his other Uncle or his Uncle's son who took advantage of Wang Lung's status.  So his concubine Lotus, whilst O-lan his wife remained the rock upon which ways he was very weak. 

He does have a reflective moment that O-lan did for him and meant to his life and his successes. There is near the end of the story when Wang Lung seems to truly appreciate all a strong sense of sadness in that revelation though.

The best way I can sum up The Good Earth is to say that it is the story of a fictional character from Wang Lung is part of what makes the Good Earth life, and the story is good, while the life is not a life, good nor bad, it just is what it is.  The absence of the typical expectations of a truly unique and worthwhile read.  While it is not as fun to relate to a Wang Lung, people in weaknesses and failings. Whilst not from a social or a rags to riches While I do not think it had the twists and turns of more modern novels life style standpoint, at the very least from a personality or character trait perspective Wang Lung is one of the most realistic fictional characters I've ever encountered. 

I still truly enjoyed reading the Good Earth because of it's unique perspective and it's Cultural exploration of a World in an Era that I am very unfamiliar with growing up in the Western World.  I can fully understand how it has become such a literary classic.


  1. I enjoyed reading your review Jon and I look forward to reading the book. It sounds really interesting. Did you know that it is a trilogy? The other books go on to follow Wang Lung's sons.

  2. I remember seeing Pearl Buck's face on an old U.S. postage stamp. Interesting to read your review!

  3. Carlyn, I had no idea it was a trilogy. Wang Lung's sons were not particularly my favorite characters as I actually thought O-lan and his oldest daughter whom he called his Old Fool (affectionately believe it or not) were the most redeemable characters. I would be keen to see how my opinions might change though in reading the sequels.

    I never knew Pearl Buck was on a U.S. postage stamp either. >.< I'm learning a lot today.

    1. I never knew about the other books too until I read wikipedia. The next books are Sons and A House Divided.

  4. This doesn't seem like my kind of book but it definitely sounds like you get of insight into the main character and it must be quite a different kind of book.

  5. I enjoy reading books about different cultures. I like historical fiction too, so those kinds of books tend to appeal to me. As with any book of course there will be fans and detractors. I think it's good to have an idea of the kinds of books you like and the Good Earth definitely is not a story for "everyone". It was slow in places and I wanted Wang Lung to be more heroic than he was.


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