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So Big

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  7,859 ratings  ·  762 reviews
Winner of the 1924 Pulitzer Prize, So Big is widely regarded as Edna Ferber's crowning achievement. A rollicking panorama of Chicago's high and low life, this stunning novel follows the travails of gambler's daughter Selina Peake DeJong as she struggles to maintain her dignity, her family, and her sanity in the face of monumental challenges. This is the stunning and ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published August 22nd 2000 by Harper Perennial Modern Classics (first published 1924)
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William Remmers Dirk is dejected and lost after realizing that he likely has chosen the wrong path. Roelf gives Dallas attention which causes him to feel like "a…moreDirk is dejected and lost after realizing that he likely has chosen the wrong path. Roelf gives Dallas attention which causes him to feel like "a rubber stamp." Dirk isn't even mentioned present in the next page when they are in the car together and Dallas returns a compliment to Roelf; he is completely sidelined by Roelf who is Selina's surrogate son/partner figure. There is even a bit of narration near the end that directly acknowledges Roelf as her true son. I believe the phone call is just another reminder that evening's party; the Storms are calling to bring him to the party or the like; more of the same old situation with Paula. Poor Dirk is never in the right place and the right time and he can't get his mind together. He just sinks into his bed face down, obliterating the world around him and being left in perpetual ennui. It's a very gently lobbed, but ultimate dour ending, innit?(less)

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Average rating 4.02  · 
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 ·  7,859 ratings  ·  762 reviews


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Elyse  Walters
Feb 10, 2017 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
...more
Candi
"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. Remember, no matter what happens, good or bad, it’s just so much — just so much velvet."

Selina Peake’s father was a perceptive man indeed to impart these words of wisdom to his only daughter, words that would stay with her through life and ones that she would practice to the fullest extent possible. This extraordinary novel
...more
Sara
My decision to attempt to read all the Pulitzer Prize winners for fiction has netted me one wonderful, delightful, amazing discovery--this novel, So Big, by Edna Ferber. I cannot imagine I would have ever come upon it otherwise for two very sketchy reasons: one being the name which just has no compelling power for me, and the other being that I have seen the movie adaptation of Giant several times and absolutely hated it. That being my only encounter with Miss Ferber, I drew the absolutely ...more
Amber Anderson
May 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Steve
Aug 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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,
...more
Deyanne
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, ...more
Liza Martin
Dec 08, 2011 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
...more
Jeanette
Apr 20, 2015 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 ...more
Sue K H
This book quietly and unassumingly seduced me into unadulterated love. I would think anyone from the Midwest could bond with this book and those of us from Illinois especially. I believe it also has a universal quality. Though it takes place between the late 19th to early 20th centuries, I can't imagine anyone not knowing of someone who went through these types of challenges even in our current times. These characters were so deeply personal to me despite all of them having lived before my ...more
Zsofi
So Big is a novel about the adventure called life. It has serious messages about family, motherhood, hardship, and most importantly, finding beauty. I am very glad to have met Selina, who lived in several homes in several cities during her childhood, than moved to a Dutch farming community. Alhough she faces challenges previously unknown to her, she tries to keep her dignity and view of life amidst physical, financial, and mental hardships.

But this story is not only about her. I agree with a
...more
Anne
Jan 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, audio, 2020
4.5 stars

2020 has has been a fabulous reading year for me. One fine read after another and it's still January. This was yet another fabulous story which again left me feeling bereft at the end. Those are my only thoughts at the moment, having just finished this marvelous book. With a story this good, a marvelous heroine with whom I must part and a powerful ending I need some time to collect myself, regain some distance from the many emotions it stirred in me before I can write anything
...more
JanB
Nov 09, 2016 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!
Irene
Sep 05, 2016 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.
Erika
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
...more
Rosemarie
Selina is a wonderful character!
Laysee
Dec 01, 2015 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. “
...more
Katherine
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
...more
Loretta
Overall it was a good book. The writing was okay but for me the story seemed chopped up and rushed in spots. Initially I compared Edna Ferber's writing style to Willa Cather but for me, I believe Willa Cather spins a much better story.
Jessica Woodbury
May 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After the Annotated podcast schooled me on under-read Edna Ferber, the hugely successful author from 100 years or so ago, I put this book on my TBR and I'm glad I did. Sometimes I do not have the endurance to get through older novels and classics, I read so many books now, I have lost some of the dedication from my younger days. But SO BIG was very very readable, I breezed through it in just a couple of days.

An awful lot happens in this book, but it doesn't have a traditional plot. It just
...more
Bookslut
Oct 23, 2014 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 ...more
Sandy
Winner of a Pulitzer Prize in 1925, this novel is still well worth reading almost 100 years later. Author Edna Ferber’s prose is a delight to read. There is a good balance between narrative and dialogue; the story moves along at a comfortable pace, never boring, never frantic. The author paints beautiful pictures and lively characters with well-chosen words. There is no flowery language here - just plain good English! This book was, for me, pure entertainment.

If you are looking for a story that
...more
L.A. Starks
Apr 10, 2014 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
...more
Teresa
Feb 15, 2008 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. ...more
Antoinette
May 17, 2015 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
...more
Linden
Jun 07, 2011 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 ...more
Celia
The titular character is Dirk DeJong, a farm boy of Dutch ancestry. His mother calls him So Big after the common childhood question, 'How big is baby?'

But before there is the story of So Big, there is the story of Selina Peake, his mother. Her mother died young and her maiden aunts brought her up. She loved to read. She became a teacher and moved to High Prairie Illinois, southwest of Chicago. The area was farm country. A local farmer, Pervus DeJong, fell for her. The rest is the story of their
...more
Sylvester
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
Laura
I made the SR of this book for Distributed Proofreaders Canada and it will be published by FadedPage.

Free download available at FadedPage
Bam cooks the books ;-)
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.
Lori
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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The Reading For P...: So, Big Book Club Buddy Read with Brina and whoever wants to join her 115 58 Mar 06, 2018 12:57AM  
Literary Award Wi...: So Big, by Edna Ferber, Chapters 11 - 21 13 16 Feb 09, 2017 04:45AM  
Literary Award Wi...: So Big by Edna Ferber, Chapters 1 - 10 1 5 Aug 31, 2016 06:10PM  
Current Discussion So Big, Chapters 1 - 10 1 12 Aug 31, 2016 06:03PM  
Around the Year i...: So Big, by Edna Ferber 1 14 Mar 10, 2016 02:00PM  
Tackling the Puli...: So Big (Edna Ferber, 1925) 14 32 Jan 29, 2015 04:34PM  
So Big 6 53 Dec 16, 2013 05:35AM  

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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
...more
“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.” 52 likes
“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.” 13 likes
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