I read this book years ago and it has stayed with me ever since.
Originally published in 1931, it won the Pulitzer prize the following year.
The setting is in China, right before the revolution. Wang Lung is a poor farmer in a village and the book starts with his wedding to plain O-lan. They have four children together, three boys and one girl. He is a very hard working farmer and bit by bit, thanks also to O-lan's skills, he builds a fortune by buying land from the House of Hwangs's family, landowners in a nearest village whose wealth declines dramatically due to their relentless spending.
We are dipped into Chinese culture, taken from the seemingly bottomless poverty of the early days throughout the rise to wealth, only to be propelled downwards again due to a terrible draught and subsequent famine, when everything seems lost and the family has to move to the city, starting all over again.
We are reading spectators of the rise and fall and twists & turns of Wang Lung's family. Many touching episodes have moved me throughout the book, especially the ones connected with hard-working, silent, subservient O-lan and later on, the ones related to their mentally retarded baby girl.
The story is absorbing and mesmerizing, exquisitely written. Page after page, truly unforgettable. A must-read classic.