Saturday 4 May 2024

They fuck you up...

A Thousand Acres Lengthy family sagas don't appeal to me and I'd never normally have opened the covers of Jane Smiley's A Thousand Acres. However, during a chat with an English-teacher friend I mentioned that I knew nothing about Shakespeare's King Lear. "Here", she said with a smirk, "this is a modern adaptation." So I took it, left it on the shelf for a couple of years where it kept staring down at me, and eventually thought I might as well read it so I could report back.

It's narrated by Ginny Cook, one of three daughters of Larry, the farmer who owns the eponymous Thousand Acres. The first few chapters were, for me, tedious, with similar sounding names (Cook, Clarke, Carson) and relationships to remember. The American Midwest descriptions are captivating, but I don't really care about large scale farming in the USA. Indeed I'm more into small scale, green farming, much like Jess Clark, the character who returns home after having successfully avoided the Vietnam draft. I would have preferred to join up rather than remain amid the folk of Zebulon County and Larry Cook's stifling, dysfunctional, know-your-place family.

After 50 pages I nearly gave up, and I should have, because the plot takes an unpleasant turn further in. It describes things I didn't really want in my head. I had to keep on reading in the hope of a "happy" ending. Well, let's just say the story resolved to my satisfaction.

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