Book Review: The Good Earth



Title: The Good Earth

Author: Pearl S. Buck

Publisher: Washington Square Press

Award/Accolades: Pulitzer Prize for Novel

Rating: 5/5

I completed my second reading of ‘The Good Earth’ by Pearl S Buck, and I would like to pen my opinion of it.

** Spoiler alert**

In brief, ‘The good earth’ narrates the life of a peasant Wang Lung, bringing us from his early days as a poor, single farmer who lived with his elderly father, through his marriage to a plain and hardworking slave, the birth of his many children, and to his latter years as a wealthy landowner. The story was presumably set in the twilight years of the Qing dynasty in China, when poor governance and widespread poverty stoked anger and rebellion throughout the country.

As an ethnic Chinese, I am amazed at how accurately Pearl S Buck, a Caucasian author, managed to bring out the Chinese way of life and thinking through her charming prose. While not all the characters were likeable, they were all believable. I have been moved to tears many times during the story, especially when O-Lan, the faithful and devoted wife of Wang Lung, had been mistreated by her husband in manners more hurting than physical abuse. When Wang Lung insulted her for coveting the two pearls she kept in her bosom, desiring to give O-Lan’s pearls to his mistress instead, I was indignant and sad. O-Lan’s quiet tears after handing over the tears speaks to the misery that women in those pre-revolutionary days.

The concept of filial piety, a deeply-embedded virtue in the Chinese culture which extends not just to one’s immediate parents but also to the elder in one’s extended family, also featured strongly. The loathsome uncle of Wang Lung, a good-for-nothing sloth, demanded and obtained a comfortable life under Wang Lung’s roof, although he did nothing to deserve it, except for this dubious status as Wang Lung’s elder.

I highly recommend ‘The Good Earth’ to everyone who is interested in an accurate historical portrayal of peasant life in China. Pearl S Buck writes charmingly, and with her words painted a heart-wrenching tale of the Chinese people. This book is the first in a three-part series. I have not read the next 2 books, ‘Sons’ and ‘A House Divided’, but would most likely do so in the next few months.


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