In 1932, Pearl S. Buck’s fictional portrait of a Chinese peasant whose backbreaking work and sacrifice made him wealthy took the number one bestseller spot for the second year running. In an era when being a bestselling author meant more than selling 79 copies of a 99¢ ebook, being top of the bestseller list two years in a row was a true achievement.
In addition to winning popular acclaim, The Good Earth won the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel in 1932. A half-dozen years later, The Good Earth was influential in winning Buck the 1938 Nobel Prize for Literature although by that time she had already published the other two novels in the trilogy she began with The Good Earth: Sons in 1932 and A House Divided in 1935. (Look for a review of Sons here at GreatPenformances in June.)
Today The Good Earth is probably more highly regarded by critics than by readers. Contemporary readers are less interested in farmers than in the murder and mayhem found in some of Buck’s less-well-known novels, like Dragon Seed,
Nonetheless, the novel is still good reading, and remarkably easy reading for such an acclaimed literary success.