The Good Earth, Chapters 1-9

Hello everyone, and a happy Valentine’s Day to you all. It’s time to get started with Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth, and I can’t wait to read what you all have to say about it!

These early chapters were probably my favorite part of the book. They lay the groundwork for this time period in China and the characters Wang Lung and O-lan. I’ve always been fascinated with books that allow me to sink into a time period or specific geographic region, and obviously this book offers both. I like historical fiction that meticulously outlines the daily minutiae of  life.  Thinking back to my childhood, the first book to allow me this opportunity was Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House in the Big Woods. I don’t come across them often–maybe I’m just not reading the right historical fiction–but The Good Earth is the first book in a long while that made me feel as if I were living right alongside the characters.

Speaking of the characters, I think they are marvelously fleshed out. Wang Lung’s drive to work the land and succeed, come hell or high water, is intense and wrenching. O-lan’s hard work and endurance is astounding and sort of heartbreaking since she doesn’t get the type of attention we, as readers, probably feel she deserves for her hard work.

In recent weeks, as you all have started reading, I’ve heard from several people that this book could “Rip your heart out!” and I can’t argue with that sentiment. But why and how does it rip our hearts out?

Some questions for you all to think and chat about:

  • What expectations did you bring to the book if you’re reading it for the first time?
  • What do you think of the characters and their respective plights?
  • What details of daily life in China have delighted, sickened, or surprised you?
  • What does Wang Lung’s proclamation of “At least I have the land–I have the land” foreshadow and is it a promising mantra?

While you all peruse those questions and toss out your initial thoughts, I hope you’re enjoying the next leg of the book! See you back here for discussion of Chapters 10-19 on the 21st!