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A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley

A Thousand Acres

Literary Fiction   Family Drama   
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Sue Baker's view...

For a “literary” family saga, it’s hard to beat A Thousand Acres, set in Iowa; Jane Smiley’s novel is a modern retelling of the King Lear story. A novel to sweep you up and carry you along as the tragic story of this thousand acres of the best black, densest, deepest earth unfolds.

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The Way the Crow Flies, Ann-Marie MacDonald
Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides

If you like Jane Smiley you might also like to read books by Marilynne Robinson, Elizabeth Jane Howard and Marge Piercy.

Who is Sue Baker


A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley

The Pulitzer Prize-winning, bestselling novel from one of America's greatest contemporary writers. Larry Cook's farm is the largest in Zebulon County, Iowa, and a tribute to his hard work and single-mindedness. Proud and possessive, his sudden decision to retire and hand over the farm to his three daughters, is disarmingly uncharacteristic. Ginny and Rose, the two eldest, are startled yet eager to accept, but Caroline, the youngest daughter, has misgivings. Immediately, her father cuts her out. In A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley transposes the King Lear story to the modern day, and in so doing at once illuminates Shakespeare's original and subtly transforms it. This astonishing novel won both of America's highest literary awards, the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Critics' Circle Award.


'A Thousand Acres is a strong, gnarled shocker of a novel! superb. Its success is down to Smiley's ambitious gusto, her intuitive handling of the relationship between character and landscape, and her willingness to haul genuine moral freight across the panorama she has so expertly painted.'
Sunday Times

'Epic fiction of the very highest order, naturalistic , penetrating and wholly absorbing.'
Literary Review

'Superlative, extraordinary, amazing. A Thousand Acres is a great American tragedy about the failure of a family's land and the failure of its love. There may have been better novels than A Thousand Acres, but I fear I didn't read them -- a haunting inquisition into the decline and fall of a family.'

'A studied, ingenious variation on the brutal clashing of sexes and generations in King Lear. Its style is relaxed, conversational, unhurried; the novel flows gently onwards like a broad river. In its solidity and poise, A Thousand Acres is a book that will outlast this year's rainy season.'

'Powerful, poignant, intimate and involving.'
New York Times

About the Author

Jane Smiley

Jane Smiley was born in LA, grew up in St Louis and studied at Vassar and Iowa. She won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Award in 1992 for 'A Thousand Acres'.

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Book Info

Publication date

8th October 1992


Jane Smiley

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HarperPerennial an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers


400 pages


Literary Fiction
Family Drama

Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)



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