Monday, March 2, 2015

JANE SMILEY: A MIDWEST POINT OF VIEW



Born in Los Angeles, the incredibly prolific author Jane Smiley spent 24 years living in Iowa before she returned to California to live in Carmel. In an NPR interview she said about Iowa, "I got so many ideas there and I had so many thoughts there and it was such a great place to live." The Midwest seems to be a great source of inspiration as farming plays a role in many of her novels, which are on the shelves of the Monrovia Public Library.


Ms. Smiley won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for A Thousand Acres, a novel in which she reimagines Shakespeare’s King Lear. The patriarch of a farm family divides his property between his three daughters, but when one objects to the arrangement, the family and the farm fall into despair. This is a realistic and biting book about morality and family relationships.

The newest book is Some Luck, the first of a trilogy that will eventually cover 100 years. It should especially appeal to those who love sweeping epics. Beginning with the Depression, the first 30 years in the life of the Midwest Langdon family unfold. Births, deaths, bad and good economic times are covered. What might at first glance seem pretty mundane, becomes a powerful story of generations in the same family that readers care about.

It is not all bad luck with Jane Smiley. Her dash of humor delights in Moo. She describes an agricultural university where scheming professors, secret romances and pampered pigs reign. Wit is a hallmark of another book, this time about the world of horse racing. Horse Heaven is a winning novel that pulls back the curtain on wealthy owners, jockeys, trainers and everyone involved in the insular world that circulates around everything equine.


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