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So Big

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  7,340 ratings  ·  686 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 unforg ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published June 15th 2010 by Harper Perennial Modern Classics (first published 1924)
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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
"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
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 unten ...more
Amber Anderson
May 21, 2009 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 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 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
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 pr
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 int ...more
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.
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!
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. “So
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
Selina is a wonderful character!
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. Desp ...more
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 l ...more
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 lif ...more
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.
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
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
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
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.
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Mar 19, 2015 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
Ron Myers
Jun 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ended too soon, as with most things that grow on us and take our keen interest. The time-frame is different, but human nature remains the same, especially through the eyes of one who's become adept at exploring the character with keen insight and the artistic wherewithal to draw the soul in print. So Big is a wonderful character study... finely portrayed.
Jul 10, 2013 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 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 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 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
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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
“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
“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.” 9 likes
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