Monday, January 29, 2007

The worst parts of The Good Earth

I finished The Good Earth last night. My ten-words-or-less review is as follows:
Sweet Lord I'm glad I wasn't born in pre-revolution China!

I can't really list the passages I loved, because I didn't necessarily love any part of this book. I know it's a classic; I know Oprah loves it; but still, I would rank this just slightly above an "eating my vegetables" book (i.e., one I read because I think it's good for me, even though I'm not necessarily enjoying it at all)... I actually did get wrapped up in the story and the characters, and it provided a window into a place and time I know very little about. But the prose was pretty simple and straightforward, so I wasn't marveling at the beauty of any particular sentence or paragraph. Instead, my 21st century sensibilities just kept dropping my jaw at parts like these:

"When the rich are too rich there are ways, and when the poor are too poor there are ways. Last winter we sold two girls and endured, and this winter, if this one my woman bears is a girl, we will sell again. One slave I have kept--the first. The others it is better to sell than to kill, although there are those who prefer to kill them before they draw breath."

"You are a foolish child to be forever thinking of this. You have grown fond and too fond of your wife and it is not seemly, for a man ought not to care for his wife that his parents gave him above all else in the world. It is not meet for a man to love his wife with a foolish and overweening love, as though she were a harlot."

"And what if it be not a grandson but a girl!"

"Well, and if it is a grandson I will pay for a new red robe for the goddess, but nothing will I do if it is a girl!"

Sheesh. And some people think merely being the middle child is bad...


sognatrice said...

I don't know what to say except this sounds like something Oprah would love. My compliments for finishing and my sincerest thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Darren McLikeshimself said...

Sweet Lord I'm glad I wasn't born in pre-revolution China!

I think this every. Single. Day.

-R- said...


I love these 10 words or less reviews, by the way.

L Sass said...

Hmm... I've been meaning to read The Good Earth for, like, years... I try to get some of those "good for me" books in, too.

In fact, when I was a kid, we would go to the library and my mom required that we check out 2 "vegetable" books (that's what she called them, too!) for every "sugar" book (like Sweet Valley or Babysitters Club)!

lizgwiz said...


You've given me a great goal for "my" year, though--I want to find a man to love me as though I were a harlot!

stefanie said...

Sognatrice--Yes, apparently she did love it. I wouldn't say I really disliked it... it wasn't painful to finish or anything; it just won't make my "all-time favorites" list by any means.

Darren--So will I now. Before now, I can't say it was something that occurred to me to consider all that often.

R--Heh. Thanks. :-)

L Sass--Yeah, it was on my "should read someday" list for years, too. So now I can scratch it off that list. And I love that your mom differentiated between "vegetable" books and "sugar" books! What a great idea! I mean, I hope it didn't discourage a love of reading; my hope is that it just taught you the value of well-roundedness.

Liz--Hee. It's good to have goals. :-) (Year of Liz!! I'm spreading the word...)

metalia said...

I had to read this in high school; the foot binding still freaks me the hell out. Along with the,you know, infanticide and hatred of women.

The Other Girl said...

I read this in high school too, but I don't remember anything about it. Probably because high school was, like, 150 years ago. I did pick up a copy for $1 off the Barnes & Noble "last chance" table a while back, though, so I'll probably reread it eventually.

stefanie said...

Metalia--Oh, I know! When I looked at the Oprah Book Club site to get that link, I saw they had pictures of the broken and distorted feet of women whose feet had been bound. It was horrifying. And to think that was considered sexy.

Other Girl--I got my copy on the B&N bargain table, too. I think mine was something like $4.98. You must have gotten there after me, when they'd slashed it even further.