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Thursday, July 16, 2020

Review and quotes: SO BIG by Edna Ferber

Title: So Big by Edna Ferber

Book Beginnings quote: 
Until he was almost ten the name stuck to him. He had literally to fight his way free of it. From So Big (of fond and infantile derivation) it had been condensed into Sobig.
Friday56 quote:
It was shortly after noon that High Prairie hearing the unaccustomed chug of a motor, rushed to its windows or porches to behold Selina DeJong in her mashed black felt hat and Dirk waving his battered straw wildly, riding up the Halsted road toward the DeJong farm in a bright red automobile that had shattered the nerves of every farmer's team it had met on the way.
Summary: Selena DeJong, née Peake, always has dreams of being an artist of some sort. But when her father dies she is abruptly left with no money and few prospects. To get by she becomes a teacher in a small Dutch community near Chicago. Within a year she falls in love and marries a farmer. Now all of her dreams of an artistic life are thrown out. Survival is the name of the game now. But she does encourage a neighboring boy to follow his artistic dreams and when her son Dirk, called Sobig, goes off to college to become an architect, she is thrilled. But dreams of an artistic life verses making a living often can't coexist, as both Selena and Dirk learn. Both end up disappointed with where they end up.

Review: A few years ago I decided that I wanted to read a bunch of the Pulitzer Prize Award winners from past years. Not all of them, but just the ones that sounded good to me and that seemed to have stood the test of time. I based my decisions on, in large part, if I had heard of the book or the author before. I also checked the library to see if the book was even still in their collection. SO BIG came to my attention because bloggers kept mentioning it and the title was so cute and catchy. It was an inauspicious reason for selecting a book.  So Big won the Pulitzer in 1925.

In a lot of ways the book is plotless. Even Ferber herself thought this. She said, “I wrote it against my judgment;...Nothing ever really happened in the book. It had no plot at all, as book plots go. It had a theme, but you had to read that for yourself between the lines.” (Wikipedia) What I liked about it was how the book gives the reader a peek at what life was like back at the beginning of the twentieth century. It showed how hard people had to work for so little and how most dreams were incongruent with that lifestyle.

Would I recommend this book to others wanting to read a classic or past a Pulitzer Prize winner? No, I don't think so. The lack of a strong plot pulse, the poor character development of almost all the characters except Selena, and the sketchy descriptions left me wanting more. I'd recommend reading something by Willa Cather if a person wants to read a book set in a similar time frame. I think she is stronger writer, though I haven't read her 1923 Pulitzer book, One of Ours.

A note of amazement: I just checked. Women writers won the Pulitzer Prize for literature seven times in the first twelve years of the prize starting in 1921! See list here.

I read SO BIG as part of the Classics Club Spin activity which ended on June 1st. Completing the book by that date, I just didn't finish the review on time!

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from current book.
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e Friday56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56 to share. 

Visit these two websites to participate. Click on links to read quotes from books other people are reading. It is a great way to make blog friends and to get suggestions for new reading material. 


-Anne

17 comments:

  1. How about The Magnificent Ambersons? Tarkington was a best selling author whose works were made into several movies. I enjoyed it, and tried to have my daughter do it for a US out project, but she wasn't allowed because the teacher hadn't heard of it!

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    1. That is terrible. She should have asked her librarian for support! Sigh.

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  2. I think this one would be hard at keeping my attention. Happy weekend, the linky is now live!

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  3. I'm a fan of a strong (or existing) plot, so I wouldn't like it. I do like reading period novels though; there are so many fascinating differences.

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  4. Hi Anne,

    With so many of Edna's other books having been turned into stage shows, I wonder if this story would have benefitted from the same treatment?

    The average ratings have been quite high, so this story is obviously suited to an acquired taste, which unfortunately isn't for me!

    Thanks for sharing :)

    Yvonne
    xx

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    1. I think I heard that So Big was made into a movie, but I can't be sure.

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  5. I've never been one to read the books that got all the prizes, if it happens to cross my path - great. If it happened to win a prize, even greater!

    How interesting about the women authors. Good for them. I do admire you for taking on the challenge!

    Hope you will have a good weekend. Here's my Weekend Book Friends

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    1. I usually like Pulitzer Prize books, or at least ones published recently. I didn't hate this book it just wasn't a favorite. I suppose that is why few people have heard of it.

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  6. I remember reading this book when I was in high school, and I loved it! I guess the lack of a plot didn't bother me too much. LOL. Thanks for sharing, and for visiting my blog.

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    1. I hadn't even heard of this book in high school or college. I think I heard of it because of bloggers.

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  7. I generally enjoy Pulitzer Prize winners and have been curious about this one. Though I must admit, it doesn't sound very appealing. My classics numbers are down this year, so I hope to read more between now and December. This probably won't be one of them ;-)

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    1. This book is good if you read it to have a peek at what life was like around the turn of the twentieth century.

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  8. I saw a lot of people reading So Big on Instagram this spring as a Pulitzer readalong. I'm working my way through the Pulitzer winners, but haven't read this one yet. It's been on my TBR shelf forever. I'll set to it someday, but I admit that reviews like yours don't light my fire. :)

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    1. Are you working backwards? I picked about two or three per decade to read but I actually like the more recent selections best.

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  9. I've only ever read Giant from her. I have a feeling I will not be giving this one a try.

    Lauren @ Always Me

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  10. I like that you are reading the pulitizer books that sound the best to you. It's good to have something to focus on, for sure!!!!!!!

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  11. I admire your tenacity for reading the Pulitzer books! For me, plot is key so this one wouldn't work.

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