Sep 13, 2009

A Thousand Acres

by Jane Smiley

This was my first book for the Random Reading challenge. A few days ago I made a list of all the titles in my TBR stack, and plugged it into The number that came up was 40- A Thousand Acres. I found it at a library sale once, picked it up because I enjoyed Moo. I was expecting A Thousand Acres to be different, but not that it would be boring. Without the wry humor that permeated Moo, there was not much to keep me interested in this book. The setting is a thousand-acre farm in Iowa, a farm carefully built up from swamp to success by generations of the Cook family. When the patriarch of the family retires, he suddenly leaves the farm to his three daughters, dividing up the land. Caroline, a lawyer in the city, doesn't want it. Rose is bitter and outspoken, Ginny (the narrator) more compliant but harboring her own hurt feelings. They all have issues with their father and his rigid schedule, coldness towards his family, scorn of outsiders. Another key figure is Jess, a draft-dodger who returns to the community after fourteen years' absence. He brings new ideas about how to do things. That contrast interested me- the new methods versus traditional, or the smaller farm that did just enough to get by and be content, compared to all the other farmers who competed to have the biggest, and most profitable farm. But I didn't care about any of the characters, so I was unable to follow them through the story, to find what disaster and tragedy was looming. I put it aside at about 120 pages.

It might have been my mood that spoiled the book, though. Just when my foot is almost better, I caught an icky headcold and now my head is all stuffy. Not very good for certain kinds of reading. So I might hold onto this one, to try again later.

Abandoned               405 pages, 1991

More opinions:
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Marg said...

I listened to an abridged version of this book on audiobook, which was read by Kathy Bates, and it was really, really terrible!

I wasn't sure if the book would have been better if I had of read the whole book, but who knows. I thought a retelling of King Lear would have been more interesting.

Literary Feline said...

Every time I visit and see your banner, I can't help but smile.

I've been wondering about A Thousand Acres for some time now. I'm sorry it didn't turn out to be more like Moo. Hopefully, if you do try it again, you'll enjoy it.

Jenny said...

Sorry this wasn't better for you - I've never read anything by Jane Smiley, though Moo is on my list. Hope you feel better soon!

Jeane said...

King Lear is one of the Shakespeare plays I never read (or saw), so even though I've heard this novel retells that story, I can't compare it myself.

Natasha @ Maw Books said...

I'm opposite. I read this one first and have Moo sitting on my shelf. Not sure if I'll ever get to it.

Gretchen Joanna said...

I just discovered your site and think it is a gold mine. As I have not finished so many books lately, I checked out the Abandoned section right away. I had to laugh, because A Thousand Acres is on my nightstand and I had just about decided to abandon it myself.
Thank you for all the reviews!

Jeane said...

Gretchen- thanks for stopping by. I used to force myself to finish every book, but now so many of them get set aside! I'm glad you enjoy my blog. Hopefully there's some four or five-star ones you'll like!

Megan said...

Thanks for linking to my opinion of A Thousand Acres. I've enjoyed browsing your blog. I've almost picked up Ten Days in the Hills, but the size of the book turned me off both times. I am looking forwared to reading Jane Smiley's brand new young adult book.

Jeane said...

Megan- you're welcome! I still like Moo the best, but am keeping my eye out for another Jane Smiley. This one just wasn't my cup of tea.