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A Thousand Acres (Thorndike Press Large Print Basic Series) Hardcover – 1 May 1992

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Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Thorndike Pr; Lrg edition (1 May 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560543612
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560543619
  • Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 14.6 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,475,012 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jane Smiley is a novelist and essayist. Her novel A Thousand Acres won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1992, and her novel The All True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton won the 1999 Spur Award for Best Novel of the West. She has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1987. Her novel Horse Heaven was short-listed for the Orange Prize in 2002, and her novel, Private Life, was chosen as one of the best books of 2010 by The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and The Washington Post. The long-awaited Last Hundred Years trilogy follows the remarkable Langdon family in Smiley's take on the Great American Novel.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Ageing Larry Cook announces his intention to turn over his 1,000-acre farm--one of the largest in Zebulon County, Iowa--to his three daughters, Caroline, Ginny and Rose. A man of harsh sensibilities, he carves Caroline out of the deal because she has the nerve to be less than enthusiastic about her father's generosity. While Larry Cook deteriorates into a pathetic drunk, his daughters are left to cope with the often grim realities of life on a family farm--from battering husbands to cut-throat lenders. In this winner of the US 1991 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, Smiley captures the essence of such a life with stark, painful detail. --Amazon.com --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


‘A Thousand Acres is a strong, gnarled shocker of a novel… superb.’
Sunday Times

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

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By John P. Jones III TOP 500 REVIEWER on 29 April 2013
Format: Paperback
Jane Smiley won the Pulitzer Prize in 1992 for this work. Both her novel and The Bridges Of Madison County are set in rural Iowa, and involve, in part, the love affairs of farmer's wives. A quick check of the reviews posted on Amazon indicate twice as many reviews for "Bridges," as this novel, which may be a rough indicator of the actual readership of each. I've read both, and now have reviewed both. "Bridges" is a schmaltzy, idealized fantasy of a love affair, and its lifetime impact. "A Thousand Acres" is brutally realistic, many degrees more complex, and works on several different dimensions.

The novel is set in the fictional county of Zebulon, not that far from the real town of Mason City, in northern Iowa, about half way between Des Moines, and the Twin Cities, in Minnesota. The story is told from the viewpoint of Ginny, the eldest of three sisters. It was her great grandparents, on her mother's side, who came from England in the 1890's, purchased some swampy land from afar, drained it, and found themselves in possession of some of the most fertile farmland in the world. Over the next three generations, through hard work, some luck and shrewd purchases, the farm was expanded to, as the title indicated, a 1000 acres, a fitting patrimony for any parent to leave to his children.

Smiley is a master story teller. She beautiful develops 10-15 characters. She smoothly backs and fills across time. There is the narrator, Ginny, now 36, and her relationship with her two sisters, Caroline and Rose. Then there is their mother, who died too young, and their father, who is attempting to "let go" of the farm to the next generation, with disastrous consequences.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By BookWorm TOP 500 REVIEWER on 13 Sept. 2008
Format: Paperback
Sometimes prize winners disappoint, but not in this case. I approached the book with some scepticism having read that it was based on Shakespeare's 'King Lear' but after the first few chapters I was hooked. The story not only transplants the events of the famous play into 1970s Iowa, but also takes a very different angle to the generally accepted view of Lear as victim, Goneril and Reagan as scheming villainesses.

Narrated by Ginny, the eldest daughter and equivalent of the play's unsympathetic character Goneril, 'A Thousand Acres' makes the behaviour of the older girls seem more reasonable and less selfish, and calls into question the motivations and behaviour of their father Larry. Giving the narration to Ginny was a clever move, as it allows us to sympathise more with the sisters, though at the same time it isn't necessarily excusing all of their actions.

Anyone who has read, watched or knows of the play will know that all of this doesn't end happily. The book is extremely readable and exquistely well paced, drawing the reader in bit by bit, taking the storyline from mundane normality of farm life into a tragedic battle in which the characters themselves seem slightly bemused to find themselves. It's utterly believable throughout and packs an emotional punch.

Whilst it does follow most aspects of King Lear, cleverly adapting them to suit the modern setting, there are also some departures. This adds to the interest if you are familiar with the play, as you're always looking to see when comparison situations will come up or if things will differ from the original.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Kenneth W. Douglas on 22 May 2005
Format: Paperback
Jane Smiley's darkly awesome Pulitzer Prizewinner has lost none of its impact fourteen years on from its initial publication in 1991. Her re-telling of the King Lear story has all the rage, emptiness and cosmic irony of the Shakespearean original, but it is Smiley's crucial change of focus that makes the book such an overwhelming experience. For the tragedy here is not that of Lear himself, the father who reluctantly relinquishes his power; but rather belongs to the three daughters who suddenly find themselves dealing with the fall-out of years of domestic tyranny and abuse. The Goneril and Regan figures, the two eldest daughters who cast their father out into the storm and collude in depriving their younger sister of her rightful inheritance, are (kind of) the Good Guys here. Smiley has a long, cold look at the original King Lear story, and tells us that if Goneril and Regan saw fit to treat their father and their sister in this way, well, maybe they had their reasons. And terrible reasons they must have been.
The book is narrated by Ginny, eldest daughter of successful farmer Larry Cook, who owns one of the largest farms in his county, the regal Thousand Acres of the title. Ostensibly motivated by an urge to cheat the government out of death duties on his farm, he suddenly and unexpectedly offers each of his three daughters a third share in the farm. His youngest daughter Caroline, wary of his true motivation and of the darker undercurrents in the family dynamic, isn't keen on the idea and promptly gets cut out completely: Larry divides the farm between the two older girls Ginny & Rose. They are to farm the land with their husbands' help.
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