First Lines Friday April 29th

I found a new book meme that looks like a lot of fun and since I just started a new book, the timing is perfect!

First the rules:

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?  If you want to make your own post, feel free to use or edit the banner above, and follow the rules below.

  • Pick a book off your shelf (or your current read) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

So, here are the first few lines from my current book:

The young woman stepped from the wagon and turned to face the driver still holding the slackened reins. From Daniel’s vantage point, looking through the shuttered windows of the common room, he could not read the woman’s face but could see the rigid set of her back.  The man in the wagon was small and as hard-set as a dried persimmon.  The brim of his felt hat was slung so low and angled over his eyes that its very putting on must have been an act of vengeance.  Daniel had met his wife’s uncle only once at market, and the number of words exchanged between them could not have filled a walnut.  But Daniel remembered well the look of triumph on Andrew Allen’s face when the old man bested him at a calf auction.  That he was now giving his daughter the last of his cautious, brusque advice was clear from the way he punctuated his words with a string of country sayings: “Hech, now listen to me,” and “Hark you well to me now.”  The sorts of words that the old Scotsmen still used were like pepperwood in a mutton stew.

Ok, this may be more that just a few ‘first lines’, but it was hard to find a place to stop because her writing is just so good.  These are Kathleen Kent’s opening lines in her novel, The Traitor’s Wife which is a prequel to her first novel, The Heretic’s Daughter.

The Heretic’s Daughter told the story of Martha Carrier, one of the women hanged as a witch during the Salem Witchcraft Trials. In The Traitor’s Wife we learn how it all began for Martha Allen and Thomas Carrier. It is their story and history.

I’m excited to be going back to Colonial America, especially with this author. Her books are well researched and her great writing brings the fine points of the period to life!

What are you reading now? Tell me in the comments below.

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The Good Earth Book-to- Movie Comparison

I knew that before I completely moved on from Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth, I wanted to watch the film adaptation. So, I borrowed it from my local library and was eagerly looking forward to watching it. After all, this movie won two Academy Awards in 1937 and in my mind, this was a time when Hollywood did movies well, so I was expecting to be amazed.

However, my amazement soon turned to surprise and then to disappointment. Not only did they make changes, which I know they must do when they adapt a book for the screen, but they essentially rewrote the entire second half on the novel! I just sat there shaking my head, saying to my husband, “Didn’t happen in the book” at what seemed like every scene in the second half of the movie. It was disappointing because I felt that the changes did not capture the heart of the book. In my opinion, it created a different story: Wang Lung and O-lan’s love story.

Now, this sounds nice, especially since Wang Lung really became a jerk in the second half of the novel, so maybe this re-telling is the way many wished it had turned out, but I guess I’m a purist and wish movies would stay true to the novel. To me, the story focused on Wang Lung, simple farmer, who becomes wealthy and takes care of the people in his life.  Very nice. However, along the way he gets sidetracked, and in the end he realizes his love for O-lan. Unfortunately, this is not the story I read in the book.

The changes are too numerous to list, but it presented a picture of a different Wang Lung whose relationships with various family members were far different than the novel portrayed, especially with his uncle.

A few points that caused irritation:

  1. The main characters in the movie were not even played by Chinese actors! In a story about Chinese peasants!
  2. Wang Lung freely gave money to others…often happily
  3. Wang Lung’s uncle came to stay with them and Wang Lung didn’t object
  4. Wang Lung gave his uncle money…ungrudgingly
  5. The Uncle character was lazy but harmless, not the loathed and feared character he was in the book
  6. O-lan willingly gave Wang Lung her jewels and pearls
  7. The second half of the film was re-written and seemed to tell a different story altogether from the book’s second half.

Needless to say, I wasn’t thrilled with the movie.  Maybe it was because I read the book first. But then again, maybe not.  I would like to think I would have been unimpressed even if I had not read the book first.

Has anyone out there seen the movie? If so, what did you think of it? Tell me in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

‘The Good Earth’ by Pearl S. Buck Final Chapters

Yes, I’m still here, but I’ve been on a blogging hiatus of sorts. However, during my time away I finished reading The Good Earth!
I didn’t go anywhere, but my reading definitely slowed down. I found myself distracted halfway through the book with a newly sparked interest in Asian religion. I went to the library twice to borrow a few books and I even went to a second hand bookstore and bought a book  on Confucius! Maybe I will blog more about that another time, but for now, here are my concluding thoughts on The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck.

***Warning:  This post contains spoilers***

Summary:

Wang Lung and his family leave the city and return home. He is able to buy land, much land, and becomes a wealthy man. During this time, a flood devastates the village, but Wang Lung and his family are well fed and provided for. However, during this time of idleness, he no longer has any monetary fears, he finds other interests and eventually another woman.
Sadly, his faithful wife O-lan dies and his second wife, Lotus, becomes his first wife. His children are married off, he becomes a grandfather and, in time, takes up residence in the former great house that once belonged to the House of Hwang. Wang Lung lives a long life, but in the end is heartbroken by the intentions his children have for the land that prospered them.

Now he is a rich man:

Wang Lung definitely returns to his village a changed man.  The most obvious difference is that he is now a wealthy landowner. As such, he no longer works the land because he has hired men to work the fields.  This is sad because he is loosing his vital connection to the land which not only grounded him, but gave him purpose and joy. Sadly, he will face some heartbreaking consequences for leaving the land later down the road with his children.

Wang the landowner now deals mostly in matters of management rather than laboring in the fields. However, he has a good mind for management and provides well for his family and even plans ahead for the next natural disaster. And when the village is flooded, Wang Lung and his family are able to wait it out without starving.

I don’t care much for Wang Lung in this second half of the book. I was really sad when Wang went to the teahouse and started a relationship with Lotus.  How could he have done this and betrayed O-lan after everything they endured? When loss and hardship finally turned to abundance and ease, they should have been stronger than ever, but sadly the story took a different turn. Wang Lung was more concerned with what he had a ‘right’ to do; he looses much of the simplicity he once had. I liked simple Wang the farmer better than proud Wang the landowner/rich man because Wang the farmer’s simplicity kept him grounded.

Observations:

Wang Lung remains overly concerned with how others see him even after becoming a rich man. And his eldest son is the same way. They both want to live up to the expectations of being a rich man and of a noble family. I don’t like the elder son in this book either; he is selfish and spoiled; he was given an education, but is he a thinking man? He seems to only think about what he wants with his father’s money.

There is also the loss of connection to the land. Wang Lung observed that the House of Hwang began to fall when they lost their connection to the land and the same is true for the House of Wang. His children don’t love and value the land the way he does; it is merely a means to an end: money. The eldest son is spoiled because he never had to work, he only benefitted from the profits. In essence, he became a rich young lord. I also think that they would have been a stronger family if they had stayed connected to their land. The irony is that Wang Lung worked hard to make a better life for his family but I’m not sure they were the better for it. Financially better off, yes, but as a family I’m not so sure.

Thoughts on the novel:

This is a great book! The story is engaging and I was drawn in to this world of old China; Pearl S. Buck is a wonderfully, descriptive storyteller.  I feel like I have a better idea of what life in pre-revolutionary China was like. I would have liked to know the thoughts of some of the other characters in order to consider things from their point of view, especially the women. I wonder how that would have changed the story. My heart still goes out to O-lan and although I disliked Lotus I also felt sorry for her. After all, she was sold into that life at a very young age. There is so much to consider both historically and culturally when reading this  novel; it is a world so different from our own, and yet all of this occurred in the very recent past.

This is a book that should be read and discussed in reading groups because there is so much to explore between the pages: Family relationships, societal relationships, gender roles, slavery, foot binding, wealth and poverty to name just a few.

What do you think? Have you read this novel? What did you think of it? Tell me in the comments below.