Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Good doesn't always mean an easy read

Another classic novel that I have been curious about... Indeed this was a good novel, and a different take on Chinese culture and society than others that I have read (Snow Flower, Bonesetter's Daughter, Jade Peony to name but a few). It is simply written, and although it doesn't specify the timeframe, this is early twentieth century as revolutions begin to happen.

This is the story of a farmer, Wang Lung, and his family. Starting out poor but with land, this is the story of Wang Lung's coming of age in China, and follows the arc of his life. I found this book hard to read at times, frustrating because of how women were treated (as slaves, as fools, as worthless daughters) and I found that when O-Lan (Wang Lung's wife that he is given from the great house of Hwang) dies in the book, the quiet heart beating in the story went with her. This book is powerful in the story it tells, the quiet irony of it's pages as Wang Lung's fortune rises with the downfall of one great family, and his family ultimately moves towards a similar outcome. This story weaves several themes throughout, and one worth paying attention to is what happens when a parent/father sacrifices everything for land and prosperity, and the kids don't value it all, and think the parent is misguided and foolish when they reach their own maturity. That the parent makes their own mistakes in their own marriage, in their own discovery of free time and pleasure also makes an interesting backdrop to this book. I can appreciate how this was given the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1932.

After reading this, and the last few books I have read, I have a need to dive in to a good suspense novel... Lescroart here I come!

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