I read The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck when I was in high school. I always have an attraction for well-known titles, so nothing except the fame of the book motivated me.
Simply put, the novel tells a life story about a poor farmer, Wang Lung, in feudal China. A story of nobody, if he remains throughout as young and destitute as in the beginning of the novel. Many things that could possibly happen to a poor lonely peasant happen to Wang Lung (ex. famine, bandits, dissipation, etc) that disrupt and rebuild his life with his family.
When reading the novel I was so struck by the depth of honesty in the narration that flows naturally with the private life of Wang Lung on his beloved land. Although there is hardly anything beyond what is on the surface of the events Wang Lung goes through, you will definitely sense a powerful feeling of sympathy with the simple and passive Chinese life beneath Buck’s plain prose.
The Good Earth is definitely a must-read for any global reader, for its instilling a sense of diversity. As I traced Wang Lung’s vicissitudes, I eventually came to embrace a person from a totally different culture. Other than reading Pearl Buck’s novels, how could one be possibly interested in a life of somebody in feudal China, a world that is the least related to his/hers? A much-deserved Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded in 1938 for its universal themes that include “women’s rights, the importance of family, class conflicts… and the hardships of the modern world.”
The book is followed by two sequels, Sons and A House Divided that tell the stories of Wang’s descendants. I particularly enjoyed A House Divided that largely concerns China on the brink of modernization. I never had a real interest in China until I came to learn a little about the global perceptions on it, so it was real fun to read such a well-written tale of a young Chinese man struggling in his sense of identity in the historical time when East and West interplays with each other for the beginning of ‘modernity.’
Ahh… my writing gets too short of describing Buck’s ingenious novels. You must read them. That is all I can say.
The Good Earth in Oprah’s Book Club Website:
Pearl Buck – Biography – Nobelprize.org: