I finished reading The Good Earth by Pearl Buck earlier this week. I have read The Good Earth several times before, but wanted to read it again since it is the group book for the Tackling the Pulitzer Prize Winners group on Goodreads this month. I am one of the moderators for the group, and one of my resolutions this year is to be more active in the discussions of the books we read.
The Good Earth is one of my favorite Pulitzer winners. I really enjoy the way that Pearl Buck described life in rural China and also how she detailed the life of Wang Lung as he progressed from a simple farmer to a wealthy landowner. The book details how his family is affected by his choices and how he deals with his own changing life. The story is set in a time of major culture change in China and this enhances the underlying theme of how your life changes as your fortune changes. The book (published in 1931) is the first volume of the House of Earth trilogy. It was soon followed by Sons (1933) and A House Divided (1935) that cover the lives of his children and grandchildren. I have read the second and third books years ago, and plan on reading them again soon. I will have to check and see if I have them on my shelves or not. I do know that I have a few more Pearl Buck books in my stacks. If not, I will request them at the library.
Pearl Buck won the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel in 1932 for The Good Earth. She was also awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938. At the time that she won the Nobel Prize she had written four novels about China that focused on peasant life and also one novel, The Mother, based on the life of her mother as the wife of a missionary. She had also written biographies about each of her parents. The Nobel Prize committee honored her “for her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China and for her biographical masterpieces”. (nobelprize.org)
Only four novels have won the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel or Fiction that do not have any American characters. The Good Earth, The Old Man and the Sea, The Fixer and The Bridge of San Luis Rey. The four novels are also set entirely outside of the United States. There are a few more winners that are set outside of the United States, but they have American characters and deal with the lives of Americans overseas. I don’t believe that we will see another novel win the prize if it does not primarily deal with American life.
For more about The Good Earth, join us on Goodreads as our group discusses the book.
I hope you take the time to read this wonderful book about Chinese life.
p.s. I wrote an earlier post about another book by Pearl Buck: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
Pearl Buck is also a distant cousin. We both descend from the Amish/Mennonite Kauffmans of Steffisburg, Switzerland. See Amish Origins.