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January 6, 2017

Looking Back - Giants in the Earth


Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.


Giants in the Earth by O.E. Rolvaag
Fiction
1991 HarperPerennial (first published in 1927)
Finished on January 12, 1997
Rating: 5/5 (Outstanding)

Publisher's Blurb:

Giants in the Earth (Norwegian: Verdens Grøde) is a novel by Norwegian-American author Ole Edvart Rølvaag. First published in Norwegian as two books in 1924 and 1925, the English edition was translated by the author and Lincoln Colcord, each of whom also wrote prefatory matter.

Part of a trilogy, the novel follows a Norwegian pioneer family's struggles with the land and the elements of the Dakota Territory as they try to make a new life in America. The book is based partly on Rølvaag's personal experiences as a settler, and on the experiences of his wife’s family who had been immigrant homesteaders. The novel depicts snow storms, locusts, poverty, hunger, loneliness, homesickness, the difficulty of fitting into a new culture, and the estrangement of immigrant children who grow up in a new land.

Giants in the Earth was turned into an opera by Douglas Moore and Arnold Sundgaard; it won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1951.

My Original Notes (1997):

Excellent! One of the best sagas I've read. Very bleak outlook (from a female's perspective) on settling in the Great Plains during the late 1800's. I enjoyed it so much that I went out and bought two other books by Rolvaag.

The book was assigned in my Great Plains Literature course at U.N.L. I kept a reading journal on it [which I no longer have!].

Lots of nautical imagery; Christ-like symbolism; Man vs. Nature themes. 

Beautifully written. Not so much an intricate plot, but an in-depth psychological view of life on the prairie.

My Current Thoughts:

20 years later and I still remember this book with great fondness. As I recall, it read like an adult version of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, which I adored as a young girl. We had only lived in Nebraska for a few years when I took a Great Plains Lit class at the university (having moved from the warm climate in San Diego), so I could truly appreciate the overwhelming sense of panic and isolation on the Plains during blizzards, infestation of locusts, tornadoes, etc. I don't know if I could have survived life on the prairie in the late 1800's. I live in an insulated home with air conditioning and a furnace, have access to all the groceries I could possibly need, and am able to socialize with friends and family either face-to-face or via the Internet, and I still whine about the weather!

I hope to read this novel again someday. I was going to get rid of the mass market copy I own, since the small type is getting more difficult to read as I get older, but I want to go back and see my notations on the pages. 

Highly recommend!

13 comments:

  1. I bought a copy of this book at the Hyannis library book sale on our trip to Cape Cod last fall... one step closer to finally reading it! ;-)

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    1. JoAnn, I'm always surprised when I hear that someone has read or is planning to read this book. I doubt I would've even known about it, had I not read it for an class. What prompted you to buy it? I'm eager to hear what you think once you read it. :)

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    2. I learned about the book from a yahoo book group (remember how popular they were?) and made a mental note to read it some day. Even though I prefer reading on my kindle these days, I couldn't pass up the trade paperback!

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    3. I wonder if we were in the same yahoo group, JoAnn! I was in a couple with Andi and Nancy, but I forget the name of the groups. On the Porch Swing was one.

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  2. I read this book in high school and loved it too!

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    1. Kathy, as I mentioned to Joanne, I'm always surprised to learn that someone else has not only heard of this book, but they've read it! It really was quite good, wasn't it?

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  3. I'm so glad you took that course when you moved to NE. Seems like you still remember a lot about it and the books you read for it. Don't you wish you could take one on OR when you move there this year? I remember that I read a bunch of historical type books about the Oregon Trail and women's lives connected with it while we lived there. I ought to go look up the titles and find them again.

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    1. Kay, I'll bet they were written by Jane Kirkpatrick?

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    2. Kay, yes I read a lot of wonderful books for that class. I'll bet my mom is right about Jane Kirkpatrick. I read one of them, but didn't become a big fan.

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  4. You are so funny! I hope your 'new' weather will be much, much better. It's odd and surprising, even to me, that I don't have any interest in pioneer stories. Maybe because I wouldn't be one. I would have stayed put in my quiet little New England village. ;<)

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    1. Nan, well it seems like the weather in Oregon is becoming a little bit more like Nebraska, so we'll see! It may not get in the single digits there, but it is colder and getting snow (on the coast!), which isn't exactly the norm.

      As far as pioneer stories, I think I've had my fill. They were very interesting to read, though, when we first moved to Nebraska from Southern California!

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  5. As I was reading your intro I keep thinking of the Little House books and then you say that this is like the grown up version! Sounds like a wonderful read.

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    1. Iliana, it was a wonderful and enlightening read. I hope I can find time to read it a second time!

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I may not answer your comments in a timely fashion, but I always answer. Check back soon!