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The basis for the classic film starring James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, and Rock Hudson, Giant is Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edna Ferber's sweeping generational tale of power, love, cattle barons, and oil tycoons, set in Texas during the first half of the twentieth century.

When larger-than-life cattle rancher Jordan "Bick" Benedict arrives at the family home of sharp-witted but genteel Virginia socialite Leslie Lynnton to purchase a racehorse, the two are instantly drawn to each other. But for Leslie, falling in love with a Texan was a lot simpler than falling in love with Texas. Upon their arrival at Bick's ranch, Leslie is confronted not only with the oppressive heat and vastness of Texas but also by the disturbing inequity between runaway riches and the poverty and racism suffered by the Mexican workers on the ranch. Leslie and Bick's loving union endures against all odds, but a reckoning is coming and a price will have to be paid.

A sensational and enthralling saga, Ferber masterfully captures the essence of Texas with all its wealth and excess, cruelty and prejudice, pride and violence.

432 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1952

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About the author

Edna Ferber

422 books221 followers
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 Kalamazoo, Michigan, to a Hungarian-born Jewish storekeeper, Jacob Charles Ferber, and his Milwaukee, Wisconsin-born wife, Julia (Neumann) Ferber. At the age of 12, after living in Chicago, Illinois and Ottumwa, Iowa, Ferber and her family moved to Appleton, Wisconsin, where she graduated from high school and briefly attended Lawrence University. She took newspaper jobs at the Appleton Daily Crescent and the Milwaukee Journal before publishing her first novel. She covered the 1920 Republican National Convention and 1920 Democratic National Convention for the United Press Association.

Ferber's novels generally featured strong female protagonists, along with a rich and diverse collection of supporting characters. She usually highlighted at least one strong secondary character who faced discrimination ethnically or for other reasons; through this technique, Ferber demonstrated her belief that people are people and that the not-so-pretty people have the best character.

Ferber was a member of the Algonquin Round Table, a group of wits who met for lunch every day at the Algonquin Hotel in New York.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 334 reviews
Profile Image for Carol.
1,370 reviews2,138 followers
April 3, 2016
When cattleman Jordan "Bick" Benedict travels to Virginia to purchase a horse, he returns home to Texas with a naive tart-tongued young bride as well. With sweltering heat, a husband that works like a cowhand, and an evil old-maid sister-in-law to contend with, Leslie enters a nightmare of a new lifestyle finding some shameful abuses to Mexican humanity, and a BBQ menu from hell (calf brains served in the head.....ewwwww!) and that's just the start.

This old western classic is a Giant of a good read with a powerful storyline! (movie is next)

Update: July 31, 2015

There are some wild and crazy good characters in this book and movie, but James Dean really stands out in the movie as a drunken ranch hand turned oil tycoon.....What A Performance! The movie begins differently than the book and has a much better ending. Must read more Edna Ferber!

Booker Prize Winner 1952.

Profile Image for Lori  Keeton.
478 reviews108 followers
November 2, 2022
Texas is different, all right. But you’ll have to get the hang of it.

As the name of the book suggests, this is a big tale about a BIG state - Texas. Edna Ferber published this in 1952 which caused a huge uproar in the state and Texans didn’t take her parody very lightly. She did her immense research which is obvious if you have read this. On just about every page there is something unique or considered special or just downright different about the place, its history, people, food, landscape, ideas, beliefs, way of talking, etc. It is one of the downfalls about the story, in my opinion, because even this transplant Texan got a bit bogged down with all of the telling about Texas. For instance, the feel of the novel exudes an “everything is bigger in Texas” and anything that’s not of Texas is considered foreign to a Texan and not important or interesting. It seemed from the beginning that Ferber was writing an uncompromising yet realistic satire of the Lone Star State’s culture but more specifically about its old (cattle ranch) and new (oil) monied families. There are some examples of stunning prose throughout, however, most of the time you get the feeling that Ferber is pounding you over the head with Texasisms (and she pretty much got it all right).

The giant kingdom that was the Reata Ranch lay dozing in the sun, its feet laved by the waters of the Gulf of Mexico many miles distant, its head in the cloud-wreathed mountains far far to the north, its gargantuan arms flung east and west in careless might.

The characters are just not likable. For me that can be a deal breaker when I’m trying to find a connection with someone, to find an inkling of a thread of likableness that I can grasp onto and run with. Bick Benedict, the unchanging and pompous cattle rancher of more than 2 million acres, pretty much views himself as royalty at Reata Ranch, the ruler of his empire which has been in the family for over 100 years. His inquisitive wife, Leslie, an intelligent woman from Virginia, is swept away to Texas with ideas of the place she has only read about in books and with no real idea about what her new life will be like once she steps foot into this world of Texas - a country in and of itself. She constantly asks Bick about everything she encounters and truly wants to learn and make this way of life as a rancher’s wife her own. She eventually becomes aware of the living conditions and poor medical care and low pay that the Mexican vaqueros working on the ranch receive. Through her experiences, we see Ferber’s critique of the founding of Texas and the treatment of Mexican-Americans.

As one who has lived in Texas for 17 years, I could understand Leslie’s newness and questioning and wanting to learn attitude. I’d never experienced any place quite like Texas when I first set foot here as a new bride like she did. But what is interesting for Leslie is that this particular time in Texas is when the cattle economy is giving way to new oil and those nouveau riche Texans are depicted as lewd and unpolished. We meet Jett Rink in the first four chapters and are instantly cringing at his disgusting and egocentric behaviors. You could say that Ferber has created very animated characters that border on resembling a funny paper sketch or a caricature of real Texans.

Here in Texas the cotton rich always snorted the cattle rich. And now if this oil keeps coming into Texas the old cattle crowd will look down their noses at the oil upstarts. You know, like the old New York De Peysters snooting the Vanderbilts and the Vanderbilts cutting the Astors.

I have not yet watched the movie, but have only read differing opinions on whether it was more successful than the book. I’ll have to wait to express my opinion on that. As for the book, I could see many truths within her critique as I’m certain her extensive research made that possible. But I would have much more enjoyed a story of a blended culture marriage and how they overcame obstacles. There were several major plot points could have been fleshed out so much better but weren’t because they didn’t play out in the satire, but they would have made for an excellent extension of the story. Overall, it’s a good book but I’d rather pick up a Western written by Elmer Kelton, a true Texan, and get lost in a cowboy story for a while. Oh, well, it looks like I’ll be getting my wish with The Good Old Boys coming up this month.
Profile Image for Corinne Edwards.
1,439 reviews212 followers
February 10, 2017
I finished this sweeping novel of Texas while on an airplane, bound for my first visit to that great state. I had earlier sent a call out to my friends, asking what one should read before one's first trip to Texas, and when I saw that this suggestion was written by the author of So Big, a novel I loved, I knew I'd found a winner.

I was right.

Giant is absolutely a tale of Texas in the earlier part of this century, shortly after the Great War. It's a tale of ranches and cattle, dust and mesquite, Mexicans and Americans. We learn Texas history, geography and lore through the eyes of Leslie, a Virginian, the new bride of the famous rancher Bick Benedict. Leslie is a thinker, a talker, a reader - thirsty for knowledge and meaning, and constantly driving her husband crazy with her endless questioning.

I loved this book as a study of a marriage - East married to West, a thinking woman and a hard-working man and how they try to find a place of harmony in the land that he's crazy about and she's trying to fit herself into without loosing the woman that she is.

Ferber is a master at her art, the writing is of the kind that I read with a pen in hand, reading phrases and paragraphs twice to let the beauty of an idea or description really sink in. Sometimes it reminded me vaguely of Austen, some of the characters caricatures of the embittered old ranch madama, the rancher's daughter, the clucking hordes of unthinking cattle wives and the Stetson headed county commissioner. But, like in Austen, it rings true and gives and interesting offset and comparison to the main characters.

Okay, I'm gushing. I loved it. The beginning confused me a bit with lots of characters, but after a few chapters we go back in time to an earlier part of the story and I loved piecing it all together. If I wasn't already on my way to that state, I'd want to be.
Profile Image for Lauren Stoolfire.
3,572 reviews259 followers
August 29, 2017
After finishing this novel I can definitely say that I prefer the movie adaptation more in comparison. I don't say that often at all, but honestly I think a lot of that relies on the charisma of the talented actors, particularly James Dean as Jett Rink. Once you make it through the first few chapters of the novel which hits you over the head with the magnitude of the state of Texas and everything in it, it certainly gets a little easier as we get to see the Leslie and Bick's relationship from the beginning. The story does attempt to tackle heavier themes and develop it's cast, but it mostly reads like an encyclopedia entry on the development of Texas in the twentieth century. I can't really recommend the novel, unless you want to discover the movie's source material, but the movie, although a little overlong, is much more accessible and worth your time.

Profile Image for Therese.
320 reviews11 followers
July 16, 2022
I loved this older novel that was one of our library book club reads. Written by a Pulitzer Prize winning author, it’s a sweeping, multi-generational story that begins with a rich Texas cattle baron falling in love with a genteel, yet educated and opinionated Virginia belle, when he visits their plantation to buy a race horse. Bringing his new bride home to Texas, she must not only get used to a new husband, but to a completely new way of living on the cattle ranch, and as the years pass, to the oil tycoons who threaten to change their way of life. As she settles into her new life, she becomes aware of how the Mexicans that work on the ranch are treated, with low pay, poor medical care and deplorable living conditions. Themes that are explored include wealth and privilege, prejudice, racism, family dynamics.

As a bonus, it was interesting to watch the companion Oscar winning movie, Giant, with screen legends Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, and James Dean, filmed in the late 1950’s. I also came across a recent documentary of the making of the movie, which was also quite interesting.
Profile Image for Robert.
Author 37 books120 followers
July 1, 2017
This supposedly Sweeping Texas Family Saga would actually be more accurately described as an anthropological look at the Lone Star State in the first half of the 20th century and the large changes wrought there by the gradual shift from an agriculturally-based economy to that of an oil-based one. (Yeah, I know - "Sweeping Family Saga" is much more bite-sized and digestible, isn't it.) The heroine is a free-thinking liberal from Virginia while her Texas born-and-raised rancher husband is at heart a good person but stubborn, myopic, conservative, and often kind of a dick. The Texas alpha male archetype is vividly (sickeningly) deconstructed by Ferber, who is a good writer - she does not shrink from criticizing how Texas came into being, and reminds us throughout the narrative of the continued oppression of Latin American people in the region. Ultimately however, I was expecting more of a story here - I like a good Sweeping Family Saga - and less of a study, and it took me several weeks to slog through this. I would be curious to re-watch the movie version starring Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean (in his last role) - I rented it in the late 90's and remember enjoying it.
Profile Image for Leo.
4,311 reviews390 followers
October 20, 2021
The movie that is based on this book stars James Dean, One of My grandmother's favorite back in the day and I liked to imagine that she had watched it on cinema as she loved to do so much.
Anywho the book it self was very engaging and intriguing to read. Not the most action packed story but the characters where very intriguing to listen about and I was somehow always curious what was going to happen next
Profile Image for Anne  (Booklady) Molinarolo.
620 reviews178 followers
June 2, 2017
4.75 Stars

I remember watching Giant with my mother some twenty or thirty years ago, and I loved, loved the movie. Rock Hudson as Jordan "Bick" Benedict, Elizabeth Taylor as Leslie Lynnton Benedict, and James Dean as Jett Rink; what an incredible cast. And despite Edna Ferber's descriptions of these characters, I could only see the actor's images as I read Giant.

The novel does deviate somewhat from the movie: the beginning is the movie's ending and there is more to the Jett/Leslie angle, rather than the novel's stating that Jett had "a thing" for Leslie from the beginning. Ferber doesn't show this, so as a reader I really couldn't suspend my disbelief on that fact. Ferber didn't show me that relationship. And I deducted a quarter star from my rating because of it. Yes, Jett's motive for his revenge is crystal clear, and Jordan Benedict's hatred of Jett Rink is also clearly defined.

Giant should be read a bit slow because Ferber fills her lovely prose with such detailed descriptions I could feel the winds, smell the mesquite, see the oasis-es on the highway, and so on. As with Margaret Mitchell'sGone with the Wind, Edna Ferber is making a statement in Giant as well as telling a wonderful story. Ferber hates the giant cattle ranches that are actually fiefdoms, with the Big Man controlling his "people." Instead of Tara's slaves, we have the Mexicans. They are paid rather substandard wages, live in horrid shanties, treated like children as well as made to walk. Walk! Only Mexicans walk."

Bick's Virginian bride has her own ideas.

I don’t think Texas is free at all. Free, the way you said it was. I’ve been here two days and every natural thing I’ve said and done has been forbidden. I’m not reproaching you. I’m just stating a fact that astonishes me. Speaking to the employees as if they were human beings like myself. Wanting to wear pretty clothes in my home. Not liking to eat out of skulls. There are—I’m warning you—certain things I’m going to do, Luz or no Luz.”

“Such as what?”

“I told you yesterday.”

Indeed, Leslie told Bick Benedict. And Texas, the Giant, is free unless you happen to be a Mexican. She helps Jordan Benedict to see them as people and some twenty-five years later, Bick realizes that owning 2 and 1/2 Million acres is obscene. But the discrimination never leaves and eventually touches the great Benedicts.

The book blurb only hints at this magnificent story.

This sweeping tale captures the essence of Texas on a staggering scale as it chronicles the life and times of cattleman Jordan "Bick" Benedict, his naive young society wife, Leslie, and three generations of land-rich sons. A sensational story of power, love, cattle barons, and oil tycoons.
Profile Image for Franky.
459 reviews50 followers
November 12, 2022
At the core of the novel Giant is the story of Leslie Lynnton and Jordan “Bick” Benedict, Leslie from Virginia, and Bick from Texas. The two different worlds and settings converge when Leslie, after marrying Bick, comes to learn the Texas way of life.

I think that Ferber succeeds in creating a sweeping epic in some ways, as the book has the feeling of being generational and I suppose there is a grandness in how the story unfolds in present and past. This, as well as the many picturesque depictions of the setting in the prose were two of the plusses in reading this novel.

However, I just never could really connect to the characters very much nor cared much for how certain parts of the book were structured. We begin with a key event that we will come back to near the end of the novel, and then go through this long flashback to understand how Leslie and Bick met and married. There were points where the backstory stalled and dragged a little and there was not much to bring the characters to life. I also believe that one of the more distracting aspects to Giant is how the author beats us over the head with “well, this is how it is in Texas”, “Texas is a whole country in itself”, “we are Texas here” etc. Moreover, another downfall was a rather anticlimactic ending to the novel, which seemingly just ends, period.

I went back after reading and watched the lavish film adaptation with Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean, and Dennis Hopper and I think it handles the time sequences and structure better and gives more vitality to the characters. So, I guess this is one of the rare cases where I prefer film over book.

It seems Ferber has written quite a few classics turned into films, so I am still interested in checking out either Saratoga Trunk, Cimarron, or So Big.
Profile Image for Ann Herrick.
Author 42 books244 followers
January 9, 2014
I've seen the movie several times on TV and read Cimarron years ago and liked it, so decided it was time to read Giant.

For me, this is one case where the movie is better than the book.

While it deals with some serious issues, racism being one, mostly it reads like a cross between an encyclopedia and a tour-guide book about Texas. There are pages and pages going on about the history of Texas, breeding cattle, Texas, Mexican workers, Texas, etc., then a few paragraphs where something actually happens, then back to the history lessons about Texas again! I confess I finally did a lot of skimming.

3.5 stars

Profile Image for Anna.
148 reviews3 followers
January 9, 2014
This story is about TEXAS. Everything is big in TEXAS. In TEXAS we do things differently, and it's like a whole other country. TEXANS are like no other people. People not from TEXAS couldn't possibly understand what it means to be from TEXAS. Did I mention TEXAS? Okay, I'm done now. I did feel like I was being beaten over the head with it, though. I would actually give this two and a half stars. I enjoyed the book more than I would have thought possible at the beginning. The first four chapters were excruciating. When the book takes us back to the start of Bick and Leslie's relationship, it gets much more interesting. There didn't really seem to be much of a resolution to the story, it just kind of ended, and I wasn't sure what I was supposed to make of it. Not bad, but not great. I'm mildly curious about the movie, but not sure I want to invest 3+ hours in it.
Profile Image for Suzanne.
424 reviews7 followers
July 11, 2011
Blows the movie out of the water. It's a much more cogent, penetrating, and pessimistic critique of Texas, and American, society and culture. One might almost call it cynical. The characters are much more sharply drawn, without the Hollywood softening to make them more acceptable to Peoria. The women aren't quite as beautiful and the men are not nearly as heroic.
The social critique of the founding of Texas is presented in greater detail and depth than in the film, and the treatment of the Mexican-Americans is more brutal and realistic.
In economic and social terms, Ferber is prophetic. I kept wondering if she had had a vision of the Bush years and our political situation today.
Profile Image for MM Suarez.
530 reviews40 followers
March 13, 2023
There's nothing I can say about this novel that hasn't been said better by others, all I can say is I LOVED it!.
Profile Image for David Eppenstein.
688 reviews165 followers
May 12, 2023
I picked this book up on a recent visit to my local Half-Priced Books Store. I didn't really find anything that appealed to me and then I saw this book. I vaguely remember seeing the movie based on the book and knew the book was noteworthy so I bought it in hopes of filling more of the literary deficiencies of my education. Of course I didn't expect much from the book as my experiences with the classics has been rather hit and miss. I also have a lengthy history of being wrong with my assumptions. My streak of being wrong continues.

This book was a surprise. When I started reading it I was afraid it was going to turn out to be a soap opera that could have been the inspiration for the "Dallas" TV program of the 1970's. What it really is is a book about the inevitability of progress, change, and about the consequences of what happens when good people see injustice and evil and remain silent for the sake of keeping the peace. This is a book that should be given a new prominence on library and store bookshelves and especially in those places in this country where the desire to return to "the good old days" is a rallying cry.

So what is the book about? We have an enormously land rich young Texan named Jordan "Bick" Benedict III that goes to Virginia to buy a prize horse from a nationally prominent physician. The Texan meets the doctor's middle daughter, Leslie, and a whirlwind romance and wedding result. All of this is happening just after WWI and during the Coolidge presidency but the time span of the book goes into the early 1950's which is also when the book was published, 1952. Bick takes his young bride to Texas at a time when cattle ranching is overtaking the state economy from the fading cotton economy. For Leslie Texas is like visiting a foreign country and she does her best to learn her way around and fit in and be a good wife to the man that runs a 2.5 million acre ranch that is more like a medieval kingdom. During the course of this marriage the cultural history of Texas is laid bare both for the Leslie and the reader. One thing I read in this book that I have never read in any other is the treatment of real marital friction and tension between spouses and how it was realistically handled. Leslie is an outspoken Easterner that discovers things in Texas that she finds offensive, immoral, and plane wrong and she mentions it in mixed company. Bick is outraged by this habit of Leslie's because Texas wives aren't supposed to speak like this and especially not about the subjects she brings up. This happens a few times in the book and it's usually about how the Mexicans are treated and when this happens Bick responds by throwing the treatment of blacks in Virginia back at Leslie. How these marital arguments occur and how they are treated in the book was refreshingly realistic to this reader. However, the story progresses through the decades and the ugly side of life in Texas is illustrated by the contrast of the affluence of the white ranchers compared to abject poverty of the native Mexicans whose ancestry predates the presence of whites in Texas, a not so subtle parallel to Southern whites today whose black neighbors probably have ancestry predating most whites.

As the story continues the Benedicts' family grows and heirs to ranch are born but things don't go as Bick demands they go. Further, the cattle ranching business is confronted with an unexpected newcomer in the state's economy, oil. The oil industry requires access to land that has been dedicated to raising and grazing cattle for generations and the status quo is threatened and compromised by money and greed and the addiction of affluence and luxury. In this part of the story an interesting statement is made that I paraphrase as a man can choose to remain set in his ways but he can't choose to stop progress as progress is unstoppable and inevitable. This was a very good book and now I have a great desire to find that 1956 movie starring Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, and James Dean. "Giant" was Dean's last movie before his tragic death in an automobile accident. The 1950's was when the tragic death of movie stars was normally the result of alcohol and automobiles. Today such deaths are always due to drugs. Sad. Now I would like to see this old movie as I was far too young to understand it when I first saw it. Enjoy.
Profile Image for Jeanette.
3,277 reviews558 followers
September 23, 2022
Epic that made a much better movie than it did a novel. It's because there is SO much, too much of everything in the print form. Too much of a largest quantity of Texas sized geography, nature, animals, heat etc. etc. As Texas was, not is now. At all. This is a fair rendition for the first half of the 20th century Texas. Telling, telling, telling. At points it reads like an encyclopedia. SLOG.

I couldn't stick with this book. To me the style was so entirely dated that I couldn't stick. Or stay at all involved with what I was reading. And the personality quirks and width make the entire core- MUCH better in the visuals than this was in the word form. Very good actors made the movie at least 4 stars. It is a character-centric look at Texas which holds, for me, very poor dialogue form. Stereotypes mainly rule too, with all that copy on top of it- they are still basically generic.

To me, this was barely 3 stars and very hard to get into at all. Too big, too wide, too deep, too hot, too rich, too poor etc. Just not the type of family epic I might embed within easily at all (Exodus was one I COULD embed within of this writing's era). At times I thought the wife especially was almost cartoonish. I did not read this before 2022 either- but glad I didn't waste my time when young.
Profile Image for Laura.
822 reviews244 followers
October 4, 2022
3.5 stars, not my favorite but I love Ferber’s story telling. I most certainly will read another. I liked the descriptions of Texas and it’s people for this period of time.
Profile Image for Lee Anne.
820 reviews70 followers
June 14, 2010
Outstanding. I have a feeling there will be a few packages from www.abebooks.com heading to my house, with Edna Ferber books inside.

The film version of Giant has been one of my favorite movies since high school, when I was in my James Dean phase/TBS frequently showed it of a Sunday afternoon. I think I even read the book back then, but reading a book in high school and reading it as an adult are two very different experiences.

Edna Ferber's writing is so different from what I've been reading lately. At first, I thought it was a little awkward; she doesn't use many commas, and likes to string several adjectives or nouns together. But as I kept reading, I fell more in love with her writing and the book. Describing the ostentatiousness of Jett Rink's hotel, in which everything is branded with his initials: "Downstairs and upstairs, inside and out, on awnings carpets couches chairs desks rugs; towels linen; metal cloth wood china glass, the brand JR was stamped etched embroidered embossed woven painted inlaid." It's hard to even type that, my hands want to put in the commas, but how much stronger it is when it's written that way. My favorite piece of writing comes toward the end of the book, when Ferber is describing the modern goods in the city store windows and refers to "the most acquisitive of vacuum cleaners." That's just gorgeous; I love that phrase.

If you've seen the movie, it is pretty faithful to the book, the biggest change being restoring the Jett Rink airport/hotel party to its chronologically correct place (it's at the beginning of the book). It's the story of a completely different way of life. We are meant to share Leslie's view as an outsider, and be confused, appalled, and enamored with the many aspects of Texas ranching life. The fantastic ballsy egos of the men and women who live there, and how those egos help them survive the tough conditions but blind them to any opposing viewpoints. It's also interesting to read this some 50 years later and realize how the once seemingly forward thinking ideas of Bob Dietz are what probably unintentionally led to the horrible factory farming and agri-business nightmare we have today. Back then, it just seemed like the romantic death of the romanticized "cowboy" way of life that Bick and his neighbors represent.

The ending does leave you wanting more. I fell asleep after finishing it by imagining what would happen to each of the characters. Ask me, and I'll tell you what I dreamed up.
Profile Image for Bookslut.
629 reviews
April 23, 2020
The first half of this book, maybe even the first 5/6, was so strong and sweeping and lovely. The characters and setting are so very interesting, and I felt such strong identification with the main character. I don't think it was even intended to be a main theme in the book, but it gives the reader an excellent look at how time and marriage change a person across their lifespan. Edna Ferber has been dinged, despite being a Pulitzer winner, for not being a very highbrow author, that she was more mercenary, more of a trade author than a literary author. The Michael Crichton of 1920-1950's lady literature. I have struggled to evaluate that allegation, maybe because of the age of the book, but she does unquestionably understand how people think and interact, and was therefore able to create a very authentic cast. She makes a fatal flaw, inserts a foolish and amateurish plot detail, that cost the book a great deal of my high opinion, but I forgive it! I forgive it, because so much of it was so fantastic.

The last chunk--say, from the time the children start to grow up until the end--is very rushed and very weak, and there is no real climax or resolution or any kind of good ending. I'm kind of bewildered by her choices in that section, and wonder whether she was receiving deadline pressure or running over a maximum page allotment, because it is so poorly done compared to the rest. But again, just as with the terrible plot choice (which occurs right around the time when we switch from great book to mediocre, like a hinge), I walk away feeling like it was a fabulous book. This was almost a random pick-up, because I did not particularly love her Pulitzer winner, but I am so glad I grabbed this oldie-but-a-goody.
4 reviews3 followers
March 4, 2008
This classic is slow starting read. Part of that is the thought of Texas itself, and part is the character development, which develops only through actions of the characters throughout the book.

The story is told by the actions and curious run on sentences of the characters. The main character, Leslie, is a strong minded woman brought up by her Doctor father to think for herself and do the right thing. When she meets her future Texas big money husband, the sparks fly, and oddly they both seem to like it, and lo they are married.

The rest of the book is about how she, and therefore the reader, learns about how big money ranches in old Texas are run, the people that live on those ranches, and all the tangles two people who are so different and marry quickly can get into.

However, on a deeper level, somewhat disturbing and yet good for soul searching, we see the terrible ways people did and still do live, the sides they live on by birth or choice, and almost finish the book with a sense of dismay until we realize what Leslie is really saying at the end of the book.

I am sure my review leaves you wondering if you should read the book, and the only answer I can give is it depends on the genre of books you like. This was a gift, and though I would never of picked it up, after I finished it, I find I am glad I read it.

(This is my first review ever, so I am unsure what the expectations are. Do I tell you the whole plot or our impressions of the book?)
Profile Image for Quirkyreader.
1,514 reviews41 followers
December 7, 2016
This was a rip roaring all American novel worthy of its five star rating. It starts off with a big Texas party and then goes into the past when the main characters Jordan and Leslie meet.

Granted that it was written in the early 1950's it still has men and women in their stereotypical roles. There was no gender equality in this story and in certain parts it definately screams out. But aside from that, it is mostly a novel of Texas. And in Texas people do things bigger. At times Ferber's writing made me feel as though I was expirencing the ranch land first hand.

Another prickly issue in this story was about the Mexican people. I had a hard time with this part because part of my family is Mexican. This might be a bit spoilerish... It is the same issue that the Original People have dealt with all over the world. Different people come in and claim the land. And in doing so the Orignal People get treated badly and lose many of the wonderful things they once cherished.

But you have to look at the story this way, it was written in Mid Century America when many things were done differently. If it were written today it would have a completly different feel to it.

I am glad I took the time to read this one.
Profile Image for Giedre.
192 reviews6 followers
April 3, 2021
This book was amazing. Well probably I'm biased, but it had all the elements I love in a well told story. The characters were  flawed, complex, likable and interesting to read about. The story lasted more that 25 years and it was interesting to see how people changed or some things stayed very constant. And next to amazing characters there was Texas so vast and unlike the rest of America. Of course I can't judge if that's true, but still. I loved this glimpse in Texas history, "traditions" and people mentality in that particular period of time so unlike compared to everything I have read about.
Simply amazing, interesting and well written story.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
941 reviews
May 22, 2022
Really three and a half stars. Character-centric novel about a wealthy Texas cattle ranch family.
Profile Image for Lesley.
49 reviews6 followers
September 17, 2018
I'm going to the ACCC. I bought this novel expecting an "epic inter-generational family saga, sweeping across the vast Texan plains" as advertised. Instead I got a primer on the great state of Texas. The reader, personified by our delicate naïve Eastern bride Leslie asks the questions and her big bold Texian husband Bick, lord of the immense Reata ranch acreage answers:

“‘Get this, If you can understand anything that isn't Virgina and pink coats and hunt dinners and Washington tea parties. Just get this. I run Reata. I run Holgado. I run the damn wet Humedo Division and Los Gatos too and a lot you've never head of. Everything in them and on them is run by me. I run everything and everyone that has the Reata brand on it'"

Leslie when sightseeing:-

"Leslie bought a guidebook and a concise history of the city, modern and debunked. She walked about reading from these, one finger between the pages, her gaze going from book to object in approved tourist fashion.

"You can't do that!" the Texans protested, outraged.

'Mmm - San Antonio," mumbled Leslie. "Who named it San Antonio?"

The Texans stared at one another. "Uh-"

Her forefinger traced down the page. "Let's see...Don Domingo Teran de los Rios, with Father Damian Massanet and an escort of fifty soldiers...June 1691...came upon Rancheria of Payayas...What's a Payaya?"

"Indian tribe," Bick replied briskly."

Leslie is a bore. Bick is a bore. Texas is a bore. Nothing happens for the whole 384 pages. Only the beginning and end of the book (in which the one lively character, Jett Rink, is central) are of interest. The middle is a desert.

See my reviews here http://www.thevarnishedculture.com/
Profile Image for Betsy.
775 reviews
February 15, 2016
Ferber is incredibly adept at observing relationships. In Giant, the marriage of larger-than-life Texas rancher Bick Benedict and Virginia socialite Leslie Lynnton is the central relationship, with their friends, families, children, and ranch workers spinning around them and intertwining. The novel begins building up to an incident when Bick and Leslie are middle-aged, then goes back to recount their meeting, whirlwind courtship and marriage, and disorienting first days in Texas. Bick and Leslie struggle with their relationship to each other and the ranch; this struggle is amplified in their children as Jordy and Luz grow up entrenched in a changing world. The novel's climactic end includes a few scenes from the week preceding the incident related at beginning of the book. Like in So Big, Ferber ends this novel abruptly with characters facing poignant questions.

Though dramatic at times, some of the middle of the novel moves slowly, and there are many details about the ranch, its work, and the Texan landscape.

This novel paints a vivid picture of a piece of American history, and explores themes of progress, of land, of marriage, of the parent-child relationship, of size, of success, of power, of right and wrong. The sense of place is strong, and the characters leap off the pages, many of them into the reader's heart. The questions Ferber asks are still relevant today, and this novel deserves to be read more widely.


Profile Image for Adam Nelson.
Author 3 books36 followers
August 8, 2010
I had seen the movie twice and really admired it the second time around--great performances, well-written, and the photography of the endless Texas prairie was breathtaking. It's plain to see from the first chapter that the movie was an excellent adaptation of Ferber's book, although I'm disappointed in her. She doesn't quite pace her storytelling very well here. She spends copious pages showing us the early marriage of Leslie and Bick Benedict, how his staunch Texas idealism clashes with her Virginia liberalism, and while that's all fun and well-done, Ferber rushes through more fascinating circumstances in their lives in the last 100 pages as if she just got tired of keeping up so much with these characters, but I wasn't tired of it! I would have liked to see Bick's reaction to Jordy's announcement that he had married Juana instead of catch back up with them all years after the fact. I wanted to see what ultimately happened with Jett Rink at the airport terminal opening and whether Leslie ever chooses to tell Bick about the discrimination they experienced at the lunch counter. Alas, Giant is all setup and no real climax or resolution. I don't ask for these things in every book I read, but this particular one was leading up to these elements and never gave them to us. Ferber's a great writer, however, and I look forward to reading her other books.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Richard Palmer.
147 reviews7 followers
August 5, 2016
Giant is full of conflicts and contrasting influences.

There is the eastern woman dropped into the radically different culture of
Texas. There is the contrast between rich white landowners and poor hispanic
laborers. There is the confrontation between oil and cattle, between Benedict
and Rink, between sister in law and wife.

With all these dramatic contrasts, I was somewhat disappointed in the lack
of resolution. It seems that Ferber, rather than laying out a plot with
conflicts, build-up, and resolution, is giving us a character study, a
portrait of so many interesting situations, but without evolution and

Having seen the movie years ago, I was expecting to see a change in Bick's
character, a growth or change, but I did not see it. The book is rich, witty
and artistic in its portrayal of a larger than life early twentieth century
Texas, and I fully enjoyed that. At the end, though, it seemed to fall
apart without resoving the conflicts that had been established.
Profile Image for Ruth Chatlien.
Author 5 books107 followers
June 18, 2021
I've watched the movie many times. It was fun to read it and get some background info the movie left out. I was surprised that the book takes a much more critical view of Texas than the movie.
Profile Image for Martyna.
356 reviews5 followers
June 13, 2020
"Giant" is an epic story of the Benedict family, wealthy Texas ranchers. Through the prism of their lives we observe the socio-economic changes that took place in the southern United States in the first half of the XXth century, alongside the great fortunes born of oil, racism and the increasingly conflicting generational conflict. In this 400 pages book, the old goes away, giving way to the younger, more liberal generation, who will soon pick up the baton.

The action takes place in Texas in the first half of the XXth century. Jordan "Bick" Benedict, owner of a huge farm in Texas, comes to Maryland to buy a horse. There he meets the charming daughter of the breeder, Leslie, and almost immediately falls in love with her. The young get married and go to live in Bick's hometown. The idyllic life of the young couple is disturbed by a local cowboy - Jett Rink.

Although it may already be somewhat anachronistic, the formula of the saga we get here is full of verve and dynamism in painting the color and mood of the times depicted. According to the title, we are dealing with a real colossus, full of pride and characteristic, but unobtrusive, pathos. Melodramatism clashes here with dilemmas straight from the ancient tragedy, and Texas landscapes bathed in the merciless sun move us to a place where in fact a different "state of mind" seems to prevail.

"Giant"? Why such a title? Giant is a symbol of energy, power, belligerence, prudence, but also vanity, ruthlessness, egoism, greed, rebellion, hypocrisy and pride. Does this description remind us of anyone? I think the title is a bit perverse and refers to the character of Jett, who is seemingly strong, hard, invincible, but actually really weak.
Profile Image for Kelley Kimble.
364 reviews5 followers
May 13, 2023
I definitely need to go back and watch the movie again. I remember the movie as a romanticized view of Texas ranching and a little bit of love story. The book is that and so much more. It’s a love story to Texas and It’s a pointed exposure of our own civil rights issues and treatment of Mexicans. 4.5 via Scribd.

Watched the movie last night. My memory wasn’t too far off. James Dean’s character is much bigger in the movie. The movie is a love letter (and maybe a bit of a caricature) to the Texas culture of the 30s and 40s with only small showing of our cultural bad behavior.
213 reviews
May 4, 2019
In preparation for a recent trip to Marfa, Texas I decided it was time to pick up this novel. Marfa is the location where the movie Giant was filmed. If you care to read about the filming, there are great stories about the cast such as Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and James Dean.

The story begins in the 1920's and concerns the marriage of Jordan "Bick" Benedict and his transplanted Virginia wife Leslie Benedict. Bick is the all-powerful Texas cattle baron who owns a two million-acre ranch named Reata. He is a bullheaded traditionalist, utterly convinced of his course in life. Leslie, vibrant and curious, is at first mystified by all things Texas, as it is so different from her gentile upbringing in Virginia. She is independent-minded and speaks out against some of the things she sees, which makes her quite a curiosity to the locals who believe that Texas is beyond any sort of criticism. The story takes place over several decades and details their uneasy relationship, in which neither exactly understands the other. Yet there is a sincere love between them, despite their stark differences.

In addition to Leslie and Bick, there are other interesting characters found throughout the story. Jett Rink (the James Dean character) is a great bad guy. Also of note are Bick's domineering sister Luz, and the tough but tender Uncle Bawley.

Texas itself is portraited as a landscape of vast, empty space, simultaneously brash yet insecure, intoxicating but loathsome, and stunningly ignorant about the world beyond its borders. There is casual racism and condescension towards the woman folk ("politics is men-talk honey, why don't you go put on something nice and rest") throughout.

Maybe this is a fairly spot-on representation of Texas in the first half of the 20th century but it is still somewhat cringe-worthy to read. And for all our advances, there are parts of the state where this would still seem to be typical. The blurb on the dust jacket of the book sums it up perfectly - "Edna Ferber has written the story of Texas today: the staggering bigness - and the pathetic littleness - of a country within a country".

All of that said, this is still an entertaining and insightful read from a talented author.

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