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So Big

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating Details ·  6,254 Ratings  ·  549 Reviews
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and widely considered to be Edna Ferber's greatest achievement, "So Big" is a classic novel of turn-of-the-century Chicago. It is the unforgettable story of Selina Peake DeJong, a gambler's daughter, and her struggles to stay afloat and maintain her dignity and her sanity in the face of marriage, widowhood, and single parenthood. A brilliant li ...more
Paperback, 376 pages
Published April 30th 2005 by Kessinger Publishing (first published 1924)
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Amber Anderson
Jan 16, 2012 Amber Anderson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everybody!
Shelves: novels, favorites
In the three years I've worked in a bookstore, I've had ZERO customers ask for books by Edna Ferber.
Dude. That is going to change.
I am going to start by recommending it to everyone I know (Andrew's mom is reading it next, then Andrew) and then I am going to recommend it to customers.
It's about Selina DeJong, a gambler's daughter-turned schoolteacher in a dutch village just outside of Chicago. It is definetely interesting to think that there was so much farmland in Selina's day, where now it's
Oct 02, 2007 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Julia
This was a very different, very enjoyable read for me. Thanks for nudging this now forgotten little gem my way, Susan. Your instincts for what I would like were, as always, unerring.

So Big was Edna Ferber’s Pulitzer Prize winning book from 1924. Despite the accolades I didn’t know what to think going into it. For one, I imagined the language would seem a little dainty and old-fashioned. For another, it was mostly set on a vegetable farm – not exactly promising. The first few pages scared me, to
Liza Martin
Mar 12, 2012 Liza Martin rated it really liked it
This was my second Edna Ferber novel (the first being "Giant"), and it feels like I've discovered a well-kept secret of the literary world.

"So Big" is a great story about a young woman who grows up in various American cities, only to be disillusioned with what life "should be" after getting married to a poor Dutch farmer and toiling in the fields. But it's not just that: It's about believing that life is a grand adventure, "so much velvet." And then going out to find that, to be that person you
Sep 05, 2016 Irene rated it really liked it
I loved this story of a late 19th century woman who maintained a joi de vive and love of beauty despite life’s toils and hardships. The characterizations in this novel was amazing. Ferber made these characters pulse with life. This is my first book by Ferber and I want to read much more.
Apr 22, 2015 Jeanette rated it really liked it
This style and depth of characterization, what we "know" about the main protagonists, those aspects are presented in a lovely old fashioned way, but not in a dated sense. This book definitely stands the test of time. I have to say that I enjoyed the first 2/3rds far more than the last 1/3rd. Selena's sentimentality in the later parts, and the Dirk progression lost a star for me. Knowing all the Chicago land marks, and how she fictionalized South Holland and U. of Chicago especially, that was int ...more
I opened this novel not sure what to expect. Edna Ferber was an extremely popular writer in her day, and I've found that many of the bestsellers in the 1920s are overly sentimental and not very deep.
But while So Big had degree of these qualities, it was also a really great read. The characters are developed well and after a slightly slow beginning, the action flows at a fast pace.
In addition, the novel does a wonderful job at describing Chicago in the early part of the 20th century along with
April 12, 2011
This book is remarkably readable and current for being the Pulitzer Prize winner of 1924. Wonderful writing, full of beauty and insight, with a heroine who faces life with a tremendous amount of strength, integrity, and wisdom. Truly a gem of a book, definitely worth seeking out.

Highly recommended.

Note: I read this book in 2011 (April 12) and again in 2012 (May 16). The first time it was a resounding 5 stars for me. The second time I'd probably give it closer to 4. It was still a g
Nov 01, 2014 Bookslut rated it liked it
Shelves: pulitzer
I was really excited to read this Pulitzer, but after the first 50-75 pages I thought I was just going to be working through this book. It seemed much in the mold of prototypical American fiction of that time, with the choppy mid-American prose I don't like and a 'pull yourself up from your bootstraps' story that is a dollar a dozen, especially in that era. The dialogue in particular, used like a blunt instrument, rubbed me the wrong way. I heard a lot of this in Arrowsmith as well (although I l ...more
Jun 05, 2011 Sylvester rated it it was ok
I'm going to say right off that I wasn't in the mood for this book. It deserves more than 2* because it's very well-written, and the theme is great - but I expected it to be something different than it was, and couldn't get past my disappointment. My bad. Anyway, the theme is compelling, and I didn't have any difficulty reading through the whole book, so I'd say that is a result of clearly excellent writing. If you're interested in a story about an American woman looking for beauty and worth in ...more
Jun 07, 2011 Linden rated it really liked it
I think cabbages are beautiful, too. This book was frank, charming, and candid in a way that I never expect of older books, and so I am regularly surprised. So Big maintains throughout the important message of finding beauty in the mundane, and cultivating vitality even in the least expected places. It's a book about not taking things for granted, and for striving for one's beliefs, yet it's not schmaltzy. It has some of the same feel as A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, but over a span of an entire lif ...more
Jan 09, 2015 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting how this book compares with another Pulitzer Prize winner I read recently -- Tarkington's The Magnificent Ambersons. Each is a story of the great love a mother has for her son, and each is set in the 'early' years of a fast-growing, developing American city (Chicago in this instance), yet the stories are very different from each other, as are the mothers. The sons do have quite a bit in common, but in general the characters in "So Big" are not only more likable but more realistic. De ...more
Dec 03, 2015 Laysee rated it really liked it

"There are only two kinds of people in the world that really count. One kind's wheat and the other kind's emeralds." – Edna Ferber

“So Big” is one of the most delightful books I have read this year. It won the Putlizer Prize for the Novel in 1925. The story was set in High Prairie, New Holland, ten miles outside Chicago, circa 1885, when bananas apparently were considered "a delicacy of delicacies to the farm palate". It traced the life of Selina Peake DeJong and her beloved son, Dirk DeJong. “So
Mar 19, 2015 Betsy rated it it was amazing
Why have I not heard of this book before now?

In the late 1800s Selina Peake leaves Chicago, where she grew up as a gambler's daughter, to take a teaching position in a outlying Dutch farming community. On the way from the train station to her new home she marvels at the beauty of the red and green cabbages in the fields, a moment that resonates throughout the novel.

Selina marries a farmer, has a son (Dirk), and then becomes a successful farmer and businesswoman in her own right. The reader wat
Jul 10, 2013 Elderberrywine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama
This woman can write herself a book, I tell you what. I'd read Show Boat and Sarasota Trunk by her, and still have Giant yet to go, and you might be able to see a common thread here - they make bang-up movies. This one has been made into a movie a few times as well apparently, but I've never seen them.

So Big, written in 1924, was her first big hit, winning her a Pulitzer Prize. It's the story of Selina DeJong, daughter of a Chicago gambler, who was given the best of education when times were goo
Jan 11, 2014 Martha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Cabbages is beautiful”: A very simple, but poignant statement that recurs throughout this story.

I just found on the internet that this novel, So Big, was inspired by the life of Antje Paarlberg, who lived in a Chicago suburb, a Dutch community of South Holland. Oh, to think there was a “real” Selina makes this story even more beautiful than it already is.

The name of this novel, So Big, is the nickname of Dirk DeJong given by his mother Selina Peake DeJong when he was very young. It was part of
Jun 13, 2013 Michael rated it really liked it
Great story-telling from a heckuva story-teller, Edna Ferber. The first two-thirds of So Big are five-star material: teenage girl has a setback in life, has to give up fantasies of being the next princess and take a job as a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse, living in a freezing attic and getting up at 4:30 to start each day. Ferber is terrific, and her protagonist Selina Peake (to become deJong) is easy to sympathize with in her good moments and her bad. I would recommend this novel, from a gr ...more
Sep 21, 2014 Nic rated it really liked it
I'm fascinated with America in the 20s and 30s, and this novel takes place at the turn of the century. Selena is a strong protagonist, a spirited young woman raised by a professional gambler father and private finishing schools that introduce her to high society kids. When circumstances force Selena to choose between a dull, genteel existence on the east coast and fending for herself, she becomes a school teacher in a Swedish farming community outside Chicago. The culture shock is vivid and tens ...more
Oct 21, 2012 Carly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Carly by: Vicki
Perhaps I shouldn't write reviews immediately after I finish a good, well-written book, since all I can usually think is "Wow! That was a good book!" and what I write tends to simply be variations of that same sentiment.

Oh well.

Wow! That was a good book!

More specifically: An amazing story of a growing America, of beauty and of the value of, well, valuing one's true self.
Aug 17, 2007 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: americanclassics
So wonderful, so honest, so enduring. A classic that brought Edna Ferber the Pulitzer Prize in 1924, each sentence is filled with truth and insight, all cheerfully wrapped up in beautifully descriptive prose. Yet another great story that I just happened to pick up off the shelf.
Dec 12, 2015 Andrea rated it really liked it
So Big, Edna Ferber's 1924 Pulitzer Prize winning novel, is a wonderful book. I question why it was not listed and taught among the rest of those American classics. I imagine it would be if it weren't written by a woman with a woman as its main subject, though it tries to fool you in the beginning that it is about Dirk De Jong. Really it's all about his mother Selina, and not in the creepy oedipal way male authors would have done it.

She is amazing.

Selina grows up alone with her father--a small t
Jun 23, 2015 Lizzie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lizzie by: Christmas gift from Meg!
I guess I should admit that I was hoping this book would feel ahead of its time. It sounds so much like it will be: a woman becomes independent, successful, and respected (!) in a man's job, isn't super involved in romance, and critiques the lifestyle of capitalists. However, to read it, it falls very much into the historical middle ground: being an enlightened story for its period, but disappearing as such once its audience is changed by real-world progress (many) decades later.

I think about th
Feb 19, 2016 Jessica rated it really liked it
Hi Friends, in case you’re just joining me, I’m reading my way through the Pulitzer Prize winners and finalists!

Edna Ferber won the Pulitzer in 1925 for her novel, So Big. The 1925 Pulitzer Jury was split between three books: the other two were Balisand by Joseph Hergesheimer (his name may sound familiar to you if you’ve been following along with me – he was also considered in 1920 when no prize was awarded) and Plumes by Lawrence Stalling. Two of the jury members voted for the prize to be spli
Joyce Lagow
Apr 20, 2010 Joyce Lagow rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction for 1925.[return][return]In 1889, Selina Peake, orphaned daughter of a sophisticated gambler who loves books, the theater, art, and life, takes up a teaching post in the Dutch farming country town of High Prairie, Illinois, 10 miles outside of Chicago. As the farmer with whose family she is to stay drives her out to the farm, Selina looks at the rows and rows of vegetables and exclaims "How beautiful the cabbages are!" Klas Poole, the stolid Dutch farmer, thinks ...more
Andrew Votipka
Dec 15, 2016 Andrew Votipka rated it really liked it
They say the beginning and the end are what leave the most impression. That's true of this book. If I'd stopped at page 300 I'd have given it 5 stars. Unfortunately the ending was awful. This beautiful tale about how beauty doesn't mean traveling the world or having lots of money or whatever, but is more perfectly found in a tired mother of 7 who never left the town in which she was born suddenly turned into a novel about self actualizing and about how much better artists are than those stupid n ...more
Kelsey Bryant
Apr 19, 2015 Kelsey Bryant rated it liked it
I was all set to give this book four stars ... and then I finished it. I did not like the ending. Which was a real shame because events were auguring so nicely for a powerful and satisfying conclusion. What I did like, however, was Edna Ferber’s beautiful, well-chosen prose (though at times the tone expressed a certain world-weariness that got depressing); the tight themes; the historical detail (this lady loved details and it brought the story to life so well); and the first half of the book wh ...more
Oct 08, 2014 Valeska rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Kim D. and Sarah R.
Recommended to Valeska by: Jen
Shelves: favorites
From the Goodreads Feed, I noticed a friend read this and was intrigued by the quote: “But always, to her, red and green cabbages were to be jade and burgundy, chrysoprase and prophyry. Life has no weapons against a woman like that.” I ended up loving this book. I really enjoyed spending time with the character, Selina. For me, I lost all my objectivity when she 1) fell in love with North Chicago's Polish population and was amazed to know that Chicago had the second biggest population outside of ...more
"So Big" follows Selina Peake DeJong whose father was a gambler and was killed by mistake.

Selina was only nineteen at the time in 1888 and she surprises her friends when she decides not to go to Vermont and live with her two aunts. Instead, she shows her independence and determination to succeed on her own. She gets a job as a teacher at the Dutch school in High Plains, ten miles outside of Chicago.

At her first social event, she makes a picnic lunch that will be auctioned off. Men bid on the bas
Angie Gorno
Dec 15, 2016 Angie Gorno rated it it was amazing
Whatever you do, don't go another day without consulting this novel. It holds everything.

And cabbages are beautiful, indeed!
Jan 02, 2016 Carrie rated it liked it
I've been on a multi-year campaign to read every book that won a Pulitzer written by a woman. I have to say this is one of those books, and Edna Ferber, is one of those writers who is totally unremembered today b/c she was a woman and not a man. Who do we most associate with "Giant" the sweeping American story of ranchers meet oil meet drama? James Dean who was nominated for an Academy Award, and full disclosure, was on my high school bedroom wall (right, S?) But, what about the pulitzer-winning ...more
From So Big (of fond and infantile derivation) it had been condensed into Sobig. And Sobig DeJong, in all its consonantal disharmony, he had remained until he was a ten-year-old schoolboy in that incredibly Dutch district southwest of Chicago known first as New Holland and later as High Prairie.

This is such a hard book to review and rate. I loved the first half that mainly focused on the mother, and her attempts at building a new life and home in the farmlands outside of Chicago. I wanted to qu
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Edna Ferber was an American novelist, short story writer and playwright. Her novels were popular in her lifetime and included the Pulitzer Prize-winning So Big (1924), Show Boat (1926; made into the celebrated 1927 musical), Cimarron (1929; made into the 1931 film which won the Academy Award for Best Picture), and Giant (1952; made into the 1956 Hollywood movie).
Ferber was born August 15, 1885, in
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“For equipment she had youth, curiosity, a steel strong frame...four hundred ninety-seven dollars; and a gay adventuresome spirit that was never to die, though it led her into curious places and she often found, at the end, only a trackless waste from which she had to retrace her steps, painfully. But always, to her, red and green cabbages were to be jade and Burgundy, crysoprase and porphyry. Life has no weapons against a woman like that.” 10 likes
“Any piece of furniture, I don't care how beautiful it is, has got to be lived with, and kicked about, and rubbed down, and mistreated..., and repolished, and knocked around and dusted and sat on or slept in or eaten off of before it develops its real character," Selina said.” 8 likes
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