Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “So Big ” as Want to Read:
So Big
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

So Big

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating Details ·  6,388 Ratings  ·  570 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 l

Paperback, 288 pages
Published June 15th 2010 by Harper Perennial Modern Classics (first published 1924)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about So Big, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about So Big

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Feb 10, 2017 Elyse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At first I was curious about the title "So Big"....which we soon learn is the nickname
for a boy named Dirk DeJong. The nickname becomes symbolic for a theme running throughout this story pointing to what's important in life.
Another way this theme is expressed is that there are two types of people in life:
"Emeralds and Wheat"

The biggest treasure in this story, yet there are others, is Dirk's mother, Selena De Jong, who moves to a Dutch-farming community near Chicago.
She becomes a widow after
Amber Anderson
May 21, 2009 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
Aug 20, 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
Surprise. What a delightful experience to start a reading year with a "gem" if you will. Another formerly unread choice in our book group year of Pultizer Prize Winners, I truthfully did not hold high expectations. I have questioned whether or not the books we have already read have been dated and relevant at their times but truthfully antiquated in language and more historical in importance. While I did find numerous words I didn't know in this novel like the clothing: panniers, plastrons, reve ...more
Liza Martin
Dec 08, 2011 Liza Martin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
Apr 20, 2015 Jeanette rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 09, 2016 JanB rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
Winner of the Pulitzer prize, this book was a surprise to me. Written in 1924, the themes are timeless and the wisdom and insight as appropriate now as they were then. It is beautifully written and I found myself highlighting many passages.

Highly recommended!
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
Oct 23, 2014 Bookslut rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 07, 2011 Linden rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
L.A. Starks
Apr 10, 2014 L.A. Starks rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
While I've heard of Edna Ferber, I can't believe a teacher or another authority on American literature didn't require me to read this book. So Big, Ferber's 1924 Pulitzer-prize-winning novel is on par with other great American novels by authors such as Mark Twain, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway. It is startlingly prescient (the ether of bond sales in the pre-1930s crash, for example), while drawing a picture of American farming, hard work, imagination, and ingenuity.

Let me preempt the
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
Feb 15, 2008 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
I loved this book. Perhaps it was because it was set in areas familiar to me--South Holland and Chicago, Illinois. Perhaps it was because of the mother who struggled to make a better life for her child as my mother did. Perhaps it was because the period of history it depicts (preWWI) is one I have been intensely interested in. Whatever the reason, I found the story deeply satisfying.
Dec 01, 2015 Laysee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

"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  ·  review of another edition
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
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 17, 2017 Becca rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: avid-books
I had to think about this one for a few days before reviewing...wavering between 4 stars and 5 and opting for 5 (obviously), because overall I loved it. One of my favorite passages:

"I want you to see all kinds," he would say to her. "I want you to realize that
this whole thing is just a grand adventure...The more kinds of people you see,
and the more things you do, and the more things that happen to you, the richer
you are. Even if they're not pleasant things. That's living."

I've struggled to
Nov 23, 2015 Andrea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 03, 2012 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
Christine Schaffer
I don't know how "So Big" got on my to read list. It may have been a Goodreads recommendation after I read "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn." Nevertheless, I'm glad it got there. I was quite familiar with Edna Ferber. I read "Cimarron" as a teenager and "Giant" in my twenties. I loved them both. "So Big," written in 1924 and winner of the Pulitzer Prize was considered to be Ferber's Masterpiece. Since it has been so long since I have read her other books I don't think I can make a fair comparison, I ca ...more
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 06, 2014 Nic rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 17, 2015 Antoinette rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent depiction of turn of the century Chicago, as it prospers and grows. Our main character, Selina, grows as well as this novel progresses. We see her as a youngster to a teacher to a married woman to a widow to a prosperous landowner/farmer. We meet Dirk (so Big) her son, to whom she devotes her life. The mother son relationship very well depicted in this book.
This book revolves around making choices-taking the easy route or working hard for what you want and believe in. As Selina's Da
Nov 27, 2010 Miriam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pulitzers-read
Once I finally found a copy of this book, I LOVED it! Of all the Pulitzer Prize winning fiction I've read thus far about rags to riches stories, or stories about the rise of modern society, this has become one of my favorites. Similar stories, including "Alice Adams," and "The Magnificent Ambersons," follow the difficulty of keeping up with modernity and the dangers of ego and wealth overpowering preservation of self and ethics.

Also, there is lots of talk about farm culture, which is always a pl
Jun 22, 2011 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 13, 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.
Sep 30, 2011 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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Current Discussion So Big, Chapters 1 - 10 1 6 Aug 31, 2016 06:03PM  
Around the Year i...: So Big, by Edna Ferber 1 11 Mar 10, 2016 02:00PM  
Tackling the Puli...: So Big (Edna Ferber, 1925) 14 29 Jan 29, 2015 04:34PM  
So Big 6 51 Dec 16, 2013 05:35AM  
  • The Store
  • The Able McLaughlins
  • Early Autumn: A Story of a Lady
  • Scarlet Sister Mary
  • His Family
  • In This Our Life
  • Honey in the Horn
  • Journey in the Dark
  • Lamb in His Bosom
  • Now in November
  • Years of Grace
  • The Late George Apley
  • Dragon's Teeth
  • Alice Adams
  • Guard of Honor
  • Laughing Boy: A Navajo Love Story
  • Elbow Room
  • The Collected Stories of Jean Stafford
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
More about Edna Ferber...

Share This Book

“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
More quotes…