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1920s Classics Pulitzer Prize

So Big by Edna Ferber

SO BIG By Ferber, Edna (Author) Paperback on 22-Aug-2000 Winner of 1924 Pulitzer Prize

Five words from the blurb: Chicago, society, Illinois, farmers, ideals

Selina Peake, the central character in So Big, is one of the strongest women in literature. After the death of her father, a gambler who always looked for the most exciting things life had to offer, Selina moves to Illinois to become a teacher. This rural community is very different from the high society life she led in Chicago and Selina must work hard to survive. Life isn’t good to Selina and she has a string of problems, but she copes with them all, despite the disapproval of a society who believe women should not work outside the home. Selina was a groundbreaking character for the time and nearly a century on it is still possible to admire her courage and resilience.

I wasn’t convinced I’d enjoy a story about Dutch farmers in Illinois, but Selina was an amazing character and I fell in love with her. The plot felt quite slow, but on reflection an amazing number of events occurred in Selina’s life. The writing was wonderful and apart from having to get the dictionary out a few too many times, I had no complaints.

The main theme of the book was encouraging people to live life to the full and that money does not bring happiness – topics which are just as relevant now as they were back then. I loved the advice given to others throughout this book:

“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” – he used the gambler’s term, unconsciously – “just so much velvet.”

This is a wonderfully rich story that can also be taken as a guide to the important things in life. Recommended.

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The thoughts of other bloggers:

Exquisitely crafted and lovingly plotted, it is story that is worthy of the Pulitzer.  Caribousmom

Selina is one of the most powerful and memorable characters I’ve ever read. The Book Nest

…infused with meaning not found in many books. Musings

18 replies on “So Big by Edna Ferber”

I think there is a James Dean movie based on one of her books, right? I was always interested in reading her and this sounds like a great starting point. I could imagine that there are some similarities regarding fears, economical crisis…

Caroline, It wouldn’t surprise me if her books had been turned into movies, but I’m afraid I don’t know much about that area. I can’t find one titled ‘So Big’ but it could have another name?

I haven’t read any of her books before, but this is a great starting point and I’ll be reading more in future.

Wendy, I can see why this is a favourite. I’m sure a lot of people would count this as a favourite if they’d read it. I’m surprised this book isn’t more well known than it is.

Chinoiseries, Yes. So many prize winning books to read. I’m trying to squeeze in a few more, but there are still far too many going unread. Not enough hours in the day :-(

In their later years, my mother read to my step-father. He was a foremr English teacher who developed macular degeneration in his 70 s. My mother, also a teacher,had read stories to us as young children and was now reading books to him. They chose biographies, history and novels to read in afternoon when the slant-light sun flooded their bedroom. They loved sharing that time together.

I read this earlier this year and really enjoyed it. What has surprised me is how often it has popped into my mind since then – at the most random moments. Really a great book.

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