Some Luck by Jane Smiley

 Some Luck cover

I requested from the library Some Luck by Jane Smiley after reading this review by Helen @ She Reads Novels. I had never read anything by Jane Smiley before.

I was a bit downcast when I got Some Luck and saw that it was quite a chunkster, 624 pages to be exact, but the print is big and clear so it really didn’t take me too long to read it. It’s the first novel in a trilogy that will span a century in America and it begins in 1920 ending in 1953. That was obviously a long and eventful time in America but this book is about the small events of family life over generations and how the bigger events affected them.

Mainly it’s about Walter and Rosanna Langdon, a young married couple who are farming in a remote part of Iowa. Walter’s father had advised him not to become a farmer as it’s such a hard life but it was all that Walter ever wanted to do and Rosanna is sure that she will be even better as a farmer’s wife than her mother and mother-in-law are.

We all know what the 1930s were like for farmers in America but they get through it, unlike some of their neighbours.Rosanna has several children but it’s not all sweetness and light and she falls into a depression.

World War 2 means an even deeper difference between their two sons who have always been opposites, with one being very academic and self-centred and the other being a farming home lover interested in improving his crops. I have to say some of the stuff they were putting on crops back then sounds very scary.

This book reminded me a bit of Willa Cather’s One of Us and I had one of those spooky moments when the book sort of echoed what someone had said to me a few days before. A friend had mentioned to me that she had had a friend from America staying with her and her friend had been a real Anglophile, but when she got to the UK she was disappointed to realise that what she had thought of as being her British heritage turned out to be – German. This book had characters realising that the German parts of their heritage had disappeared, their grandfather had given up singing German songs when the US went to war with Germany. It must have been a common occurrence within families of German extraction and they were in good company as the British royal family did their best to shake off those Germanic ties at the outbreak of World War 1. One thing I know for sure and that is that if you have cake for breakfast – that’s Germanic, much as I love cake, I couldn’t face it for breakfast.

Anyway – I’ve meandered as I often do. I enjoyed Some Luck and will be reading the others in the trilogy. Jane Smiley won the Pulitzer prize for her book A Thousand Acres. Have any of you read that one?

Going off at another slight tangent, Some Luck has so many small details of daily life in it that I was reminded of some of the extracts from Christy’s @ A Good Stopping Point ancestor’s (Emma Tilton Richards) journal which begins in 1888 and you can read it here if you’re interested in social history.

4 thoughts on “Some Luck by Jane Smiley

  1. I’m pleased you enjoyed this, especially as I was the one who recommended it to you. I have the second book on my shelf and it looks even bigger than this one but, as you’ve said, this book was surprisingly quick to read. Emma Tilton Richards isn’t my ancestor, by the way – I think she’s Christy’s from A Good Stopping Point. 🙂

    • Helen,
      Oh good grief, sorry about that, that’s what comes of blogging late at night/early morning!
      I’ll definitely be reading the other books in the trilogy, via the library though. Thanks for pointing me in the direction of Jane Smiley.

  2. Thanks for the shout-out to the journal! I’ve read A Thousand Acres and also The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton. I thought A Thousand Acres was okay. I think I was disappointed in the Lidie Newton book. However I read both of them when I was in high school / college and my tastes were a bit different then.

    • Christy,
      I must admit that I don’t even remember ever having heard of Jane Smiley before reading Stefanie’s review.

      Honestly – you could write a book around the journal, taking the entries as bones and fleshing them out!

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