I love novels that help me to experience a new culture, and the Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck took me on a thoroughly entertaining journey through early 20th-c China. We follow the lives of the hardworking but poor farmer Wang Lung, who marries the plain and thrifty slave O-Lan. Together, they set out on an adventure to improve their lives. But if they succeed, will they inevitably change from simple, industrious farmers to ape the idle lifestyles of the country’s Ladies and Lords? This is the question at the heart of the novel. Drought, flood, locusts, starvation, robbers and hangers on assault Wang Lung and O-Lan’s endeavours, but with their hard work, luck, and O-Lan’s wiles, they survive and begin to prosper. That is when their real troubles begin, and the repercussions reverberate through their entire household.
Ms Buck paints a vivid picture of the struggles ordinary people had to endure in China at the time, and the opium induced stupor of the rich to the plight of their fellow citizens. The fact that the author spent most of the first half of her life in China (her Chinese name was Sai Zhenzhu ) also adds much credibility to the images her work evokes. I’ll definitely be putting the rest of Ms Buck’s novels set in China on my to read list.
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck is available at Amazon