It seems like everyone read The Good Earth by Pearl S Buck during their high school years and even if they didn’t, they’ve at least heard of this book. Buck, as a Westerner, was criticized for daring to write a story about a family in China. Taking place in the 1920’s it’s a universal story about a man’s struggles in life from his years as a young farmer through his old age, dealing with the numerous trials which come from overseeing a large extended family. He makes mistakes, lives through various crises, has disgruntled sons, and supports a bunch of leeches who take advantage of his hard work as he moves from poverty into wealth. In the background is the Chinese Revolution and the shedding of the old ways. As the reader becomes immersed in the story, they grow to understand something of the culture from that time period. Published in 1931, this book was considered a ground breaker for a generation of people who knew nothing about the Chinese culture.
This review does not attempt to rate Pearl S Buck’s works. Instead I would like to focus on the adaptation by Nick Bertozzi who has created a graphic novel illustrating the plot line of the original work. While it helps if you’ve already read the book, the reader can easily get more than a gist of the tale through this condensed version of Buck’s words. The black and white line drawings, however are problematic. I received an ARC from Netgalley so perhaps additions have been made to the illustrations for the final copy to make them clearer and more defined. While in the beginning there are some relevant details, as the book progresses there is less and less definition to the drawings. You definitely need the text, at times, to figure out what is going on in the picture. So even though the adaptation is adequate, the graphics are not. While I wasn’t expecting color (it just wouldn’t have been appropriate in a story reflecting the grayness of their lives), I was expecting a sharper image with characters who were well shaped instead of basically a blob. My main complaint is the abrupt ending with a final panel which only vaguely captures any of Buck’s nuances unless you just happened to have recently read the final paragraph of the book.
Hopefully the final draft had an improved quality. Still, illustrations always enhance a work, which is why graphic novels are so popular, and I appreciate when the classics are made more approachable for the upcoming generations. A barely three star version of a five star book.
I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.