Once in a while I like to go back and read a classic that I have not read in years. This summer I pulled out my old copy of The Good Earth (1931) by Pearl S. Buck. I have read a couple other books by Buck, Dragon Seed, most notable. I enjoy her writing, but mostly I enjoy her stories. Buck won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932 for this novel and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938. The Good Earth is part of a trilogy including Sons (1932) and A House Divided (1935); neither of which I can find to read. A few years ago The Good Earth hit the best seller lists again when Oprah chose it for one of her book club selections.
Buck's novel is set in pre-revolutionary China. The lead character is Wang Lung, a poor farmer's son with a bit of land. The story opens with Wang Lung excited about meeting for the first time and marrying his pre-arranged bride, a slave girl from the house of a wealthy old family. O-lan is quiet, saying the fewest words possible and only when absolutely necessary. She is strong, homely, and a hard worker. She works diligently by her husband's side in the fields helping to make him a successful farmer, she takes care of her husband and her husband's father, but most importantly she bears him three sons.
The story follows Wang Lung through his trials, tribulations, success, poverty, and finally wealth. He is a strong man with few weaknesses, but the weaknesses he has are large. All the characters in the novel are finely drawn. Wang Lung's sons do not stay on the farm but become a scholar, a merchant, and a soldier. There are daughters, slaves, concubines, and unwanted opium addicted relatives, all serve to move the story along and make it lively!
The ending leaves me wanting more. I will be trying to find Sons and A House Divided so I can catch up on what happened to the Wang Lung family!