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A Thousand Acres - Jane Smiley

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Genre: Fiction

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      04.03.2003 17:52
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      'A Thousand Acres', set in America in the 1970s, is a fascnating update of Shakespeare's 'King Lear' which casts light on the older text, as well as being an excellent story in its own right. It isn't necessary to know 'King Lear' before you approach this book, but those who do may well find themselves encountering some surprisng parallels. 'King Lear' in brief, is about a King who divides up his Kingdom between his daughters, disliked something his favourite, youngest child says and cuts her out. The older two sisters don't like how he behaves and between them conspire to drive him mad. There's a lot of fighting and in true Shakespeare tragedy style, almost everyone winds up dead. That's the short of it, there's a lot more to it than that of course. 'A Thousand Acres' then. Larry is a farnmer who has amassed a thousand acres of land, which, when he decides to retire, he divides between his daughters. The yougnest, Caroline, ahs her doubts so he cuts her out, leaving Ginny, Rose and their husbands to take over. Things do not run smoothly and soon there are family disputes breaking out, marriages start to look less certain and some very disturbing ghosts from the past start to raise their heads. This is a book about strained relationships, dominant parents and bullied children. There's a great deal of femenist subtext - the women in the book are in many ways owned by their men, and when the two older sisters try to get some control over their lives, it doesn't go down well. Narrated by the oldest sister, Ginny (Goneril) the book follows the slow break down of a family and its carious tragic consequences. it asks some interesting questions, not least of which is this - how do you forgive someone who feels no remorse for what they've done to you? The prose is wonderful - evocative, insightful, written with a ligth touch and a great deal of thought. THis is a book to c
      ontemplate, but its also a real page turner. The plummet towards certain doom holds an inevitable fascination,and those who know the play will want to know just how far the comparrison holds - will 'gloucester' be blinded? are they all going to kill each other? Will 'Lear' go out into the storm and will 'Edgar' retend to be mad? These are questions I have no intention of answering. However, the interplay between book and play is fascinating. I'll certainly enver see the original in quite the same light again. A fascinating read, with some excellent character studies and a fair few provocative ideas. Highly recommended.

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    • Product Details

      Larry is a successful farmer in Zebulon County, Iowa. Widowed, he has three daughters, Ginny and Rose who work on the farm, and Caroline, who is a lawyer. When Larry decides to give the ownership of the farm to his daughters, Caroline's reservations mean she is cut out of the ownership.