Brian's Reviews > A Thousand Acres

A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
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really liked it

“People keep secrets when other people don’t want to hear the truth.”

“A Thousand Acres” is one of those novels that kind of creeps up on you. You do not realize it is pulling you in, but it does so bit by bit. Every time I picked up the book, I read for long periods. The novel is a modern version (slight retelling) of Shakespeare’s “King Lear.” The text begin in 1979 on an Iowa farm, and is told from the perspective of the eldest of three daughters, Ginny Cook. Ginny is the surrogate for Shakespeare’s Goneril. As mentioned, the text is based on “King Lear’, but it is different enough from that story that as you read when you sometimes see the parallels it is jarring (in a good way). The author, Jane Smiley, was judicious and clever in her use of these moments.
The author’s depiction of farm life and her attention to the mundane details of that life make the world of this text all that more real. It is well done and gives the novel a full feeling.
Some strong moments in the book include a scene in chapter 29 where a character remembers suppressed childhood trauma. It is concise and harrowing in its portrayal of that awakening. Equally strong is chapter 33, which is one of the most realistic depictions of a fight between a long time couple that I have ever read. What is unsaid is powerful, and I cringed in recognition while reading it.
I have read reviews where some have bemoaned the fact that “A Thousand Acres” is a dark text, and the ending is depressing. Well…the ending of Shakespeare’s tragedies are dark and we accept that with no qualms. Tragedy is not outdated. My emotional side detests the novel’s bleakness. My intellectual side knows that it rings true.
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Reading Progress

January 6, 2018 – Started Reading
January 6, 2018 – Shelved
January 13, 2018 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-5 of 5 (5 new)

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message 1: by Sam (new)

Sam Fuller Haven't read King Lear, but this book sounds really interesting How much would I be missing out on if I read this first?


Brian Nope, it is stand alone. Knowing "Lear" enhances the text, but is not necessary.

Sam wrote: "Haven't read King Lear, but this book sounds really interesting How much would I be missing out on if I read this first?"


Julie Brian,
I appreciated your review. Strangely, I did not find this "dark," I found it boring. I just couldn't get anywhere with it, and as soon as I'd put it down, it stayed down for days. Personal problem, I suppose.


Brian I understand that. I can easily see how it could be boring. I wonder if my aligning it with 'King Lear" while while I read made me enjoy it more. Not sure.

Julie wrote: "Brian,
I appreciated your review. Strangely, I did not find this "dark," I found it boring. I just couldn't get anywhere with it, and as soon as I'd put it down, it stayed down for days. Personal p..."



Julie Brian,
Good point. I did think, while I was reading it, that a re-read of Lear may have improved my experience.


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