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.


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

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  1. Caroline says:

    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…

    1. Jackie says:

      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.

  2. Wendy says:

    SO glad you enjoyed this one, Jackie – one of my favorites! Thanks for the link love too :)

    1. Jackie says:

      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.

  3. JoAnn says:

    So Big has been on my wish list ever since Wendy’s review. I’ve never read Ferber and this sounds like a book I would enjoy. Glad you recommend it, too!

    1. Jackie says:

      JoAnn, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this one. I hope you find the time to fit it in.

  4. Chinoiseries says:

    Your review reminded me of the many prize-winning books waiting to be read. I like how books from a different time can prove themselves to be still relevant today.

    1. Jackie says:

      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 :-(

      1. Karla says:

        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.

  5. Melody says:

    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.

    1. Jackie says:

      Melody, Yes. I’m finding I keep thinking about it too. Such a memorable book :-)

  6. Kathleen says:

    I would enjoy a quiet, contemplative read like this one.

    1. Jackie says:


      Yes. I think you’d enjoy this one.

  7. Jenners says:

    I think it is important to be reminded of what is truly important in life. Thanks!

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenners, It certainly is :-)

  8. Christy says:

    I don’t think I’ve heard of this book but I am intrigued by your praise of the character of Selina and the similar praise of the other reviewers.

    1. Jackie says:

      Christy, I’m surprised that it isn’t more well known, but I’m pleased I’ve been able to bring it to your attention and hope you enjoy it.


  1. So Big by Edna Ferber | A Good Stopping Point

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