Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Preview — Some Luck by Jane Smiley. On their farm in Denby, Iowa, Rosanna and Walter Langdon abide by time-honored values that they pass on to their five wildly different yet equally remarkable children: Frank, the brilliant, stubborn first-born; Joe, whose love of animals makes him the natural heir to his family's land; Lillian, an angelic child who enters a fairy-tale marriage with a man only she will full On their farm in Denby, Iowa, Rosanna and Walter Langdon abide by time-honored values that they pass on to their five wildly different yet equally remarkable children: Frank, the brilliant, stubborn first-born; Joe, whose love of animals makes him the natural heir to his family's land; Lillian, an angelic child who enters a fairy-tale marriage with a man only she will fully know; Henry, the bookworm who's not afraid to be different; and Claire, who earns the highest place in her father's heart.
Moving from post-World War I America through the early s, Some Luck gives us an intimate look at this family's triumphs and tragedies, zooming in on the realities of farm life, while casting-as the children grow up and scatter to New York, California, and everywhere in between-a panoramic eye on the monumental changes that marked the first half of the twentieth century.
Rich with humor and wisdom, twists and surprises, Some Luck takes us through deeply emotional cycles of births and deaths, passions, and betrayals, displaying Smiley's dazzling virtuosity, compassion, and understanding of human nature and the nature of history, never discounting the role of fate and chance.
This potent conjuring of many lives across generations is a stunning tour de force. Get A Copy. Hardcover , pages. More Details Original Title.
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Was anyone else disappointed with this book? Linda Badcock Yes, I found it disappointing. I felt that I was waiting for something to happen. Of course, lots of things happened, but there was no plot. It was a …more Yes, I found it disappointing. It was a narrative of events. Is it tame enough for my 92 yr old mother-in-law? Don't like her to think I would give her anything too spicy! Myste There are a couple over-detailed "intimate" scenes that were probably not needed mainly the oldest boy's visit to the prostitute See all 22 questions about Some Luck….
Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Aug 01, Will Byrnes rated it it was amazing Shelves: american-history , books-of-the-year There are so many elements to Some Luck , long-listed for the National Book Award, that wherever your interests may lie, there is much here from which to choose.
Take your pick—a Pulitzer-winning author going for a triple in the late innings, finishing up her goal of writing novels in all forms. Take your pick—a look at 34 years of a planned hundred year scan of the USA through the eyes of a Midwest family, winning, engaging characters, seen from birth to whatever, good, bad and pffft, where There are so many elements to Some Luck , long-listed for the National Book Award, that wherever your interests may lie, there is much here from which to choose. Take your pick—a look at the changes in farming, over the decades, the impact of events like the Depression and massive drought on people you care about.
Take your pick-- the searing summer heat that killed many, the biting snow-bound winter that stole the heat from every extremity. Take your pick—the newness and revolution of cars, tractors, hybrid plants, new fertilizer, the tales brought from the old country, often told in foreign tongues. Take your pick—a bad boy with talent, brains and looks, a steadfast young man taking the old ways of farming and mixing them with the new to make a life and a future, a smart young woman heading to the big city and getting involved with very un-farm-like political interests.
Take your pick—shopping for a religion while looking for answers to the sorrows of existence, shopping for political help when no financial seems forthcoming from the nation. Take your pick—love is found, lost, found again, couples struggle through ups and downs, the charring of fate and time, the questions that arise, the doubts, the certainties.
Take your pick. Louis, MO, and now a California resident, spent twenty four years of her life planted in the farm-belt. Smitten with the place, she stayed on after completing her MFA and PhD, and taught at Iowa State for fifteen growing seasons years, yielding bumper crops that include a short story, Lily , that earned her an O Henry award, a script for an episode of the TV series Homicide: Life on the Streets , a novella, The Age of Grief , that was made into a film in , a Pulitzer Prize for her novel A Thousand Acres , a YA series on horses, a couple of biographies, a volume that looks at the novel through history, twelve adult novels with this one, and a slew of other work beside.
Whatever Smiley is using for her literary fertilizer, can you send me several hundred pound bags? Looking to rotate her offerings, she decided early on that she wanted to write novels in every literary genre, tragedy, comedy, romance and epic. The second volume, Early Warning , was released in April of The third volume, Golden Age was released in October, , and look a little bit into the future. This first part looks at the growth of the United States from an agricultural, second tier power, to the dominant military and economic power in the world following World War II. When I thought about where exactly I wanted to set it, I considered that the most important aspect of any culture is where they get their food — how they think of their food, what their food means to them.
Walter Langdon, 25, and his wife Rosanna have just started their lives together, on their own farm. Baby Frank has recently arrived. This is where the roots are. If we start the family living in Iowa, then they're gonna go lots and lots and lots of places. The book consists of thirty four chapters, one for each of the years from through Each chapter touches on things that are going on in the world, and how they affect the Langdon clan.
With such a large canvas Smiley can look at some of the details that might not stand out in a broad overview, things like the move from livestock to tractors, how the spread of the automobile affects a farm family, changes in how crops are bred. Some of the details of farm life are chilling indeed, a woman giving birth alone in a farm house because no one can hear her calls for help over the driving wind, nothing but brown from the pump signaling the end of available water during a severe drought, the loss of a child to a random accident.
Another death from a cause that would be easily treatable today. We often get to look through the eyes of her characters, even from early childhood. Frank creeping around as an infant is precious, particularly when he heads to his favorite hiding place, and more alarming when he is an adult, in the military. There are plenty of Langdons to go around, the prime group, father Walter, mother Rosanna, and each of their kids get time in the spotlight, but to the extent that there is a primary here, it is Frank.
He is far from perfect, but he is perfectly engaging. You really, really want to know what he is doing, where he is going, and what is in store for him. This is a very effective approach, quietly but steadily advancing the story. She does let loose with some dazzlers from time to time. The paragraph with which I opened this review is an homage to one of those, a Thanksgiving celebration late in the book. I am including the entirety of that bit under a spoiler tag, mostly because of its length, but there might be a detail or two in there that would be actually spoilerish, so you might want to skip it until you have read the book.
Caveat lector. She could not say that Lilian had control of those children, who were underfoot every time you took a step, though they were good-natured, to be sure. Take your pick—Joey falling out of the hayloft, Frankie driving the car to Usherton, Frankie disappearing into the Italian Campaign. She could not have created this moment, these lovely faces, these candles flickering, the flash of the silverware, the fragrance of the food hanging over the table, the heads turning this way and that, the voices murmuring and laughing.
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She looked at Walter, who was so far away from her, all the way at the other end of the table, having a laugh with Andrea, who had a beautiful suit on, navy blue with a tiny waist and white collar and cuffs. As if on cue, Walter turned from Andrea and looked at Rosanna, and they agreed in that instant something had created itself from nothing—a dumpy old house had been filled, if only for this moment, with twenty-three different worlds, each one of them rich and mysterious.
Rosanna wrapped her arms around herself for a moment and sat down. I suppose if I have any gripes with the book it is that I wanted to spend more time with this or that character at this or that period of their life, a hazard in any book that takes in so much real estate and so many characters over so many years. View all 16 comments. Would anyone be kind enough to tell me which one of J Smiley or another author would have the same stature please?
Thanks a million! Jun 19, Jacqueline Masumian rated it it was ok. I hate to say it, but this book was a disappointment. I was a fan of Smiley's A Thousand Acres , a book that was beautifully written and clever. However, this book, the first segment in a trilogy, leaves much to be desired. The characters are nicely drawn, but they don't do anything other than go to school, perform farm chores, help Mama bake a cake, etc. They are merely pleasant people. There is no protagonist in this novel, no antagonist, no conflict between or within characters, and no I hate to say it, but this book was a disappointment.
There is no protagonist in this novel, no antagonist, no conflict between or within characters, and no plot. The story covers the year by year life of an Iowa farm family from to Children are born and grow up, some move away from the farm, marriages and deaths occur, but nothing significant seems to happen. Yes, the family weathers the Depression, a terrible drought, the death of a child, the suicide of an uncle, but there is no depth to these events.
They float away, and life goes on. Where are the grit and the pain issuing from such troubles? I kept turning pages, hoping that on the next page some event, a hint at plot, or a bit of psychological intrigue would occur, but it never did. Even the landscape of the farm was not fully developed; we know we're in Iowa farm country, but that's about it.
And when the scene switches to Europe in WWII, I was still waiting for something, some kernel of drama, to show itself. Towards the end of the book, there are suggestions that exciting events will begin to unfold in the next segment, but I do not think it's fair to make the reader slog through plotless pages to get to that point.
Smiley is perhaps intent on showing us a panorama of life in America. But then, can you call the book a novel? View all 28 comments. Dec 18, Violet wells rated it it was ok. My instinct was to abandon this after 50 pages. I loved A Thousand Acres but this read like the left-overs of that novel. To me a novel is bad if whole sections can be removed without it making the slightest difference to the overall drift just as you can miss episodes of a soap opera but still easily rejoin the plot. Often it reads like a stocktaking of life rather than a dramatization of it.
Early on we get the pov of a six month old baby which was as pointless as it was annoying. The prose style is uninspired too — it reads like an underpainting, a first draft, sketchy, chatty and simply worded.
Some Luck: A Novel
The father and mother have no inner life and so hold no interest. They have countless children — I lost count of the exact number — and of these children one, Frank, was interesting. Every time Frank is the focus the book got more interesting. Jane Smiley has written more than thirty books, more books than one could comfortable carry from one room to another in one go.
There are some writers who simply write too much and do their reputation harm. Less is more. Iris Murdoch springs to mind. That even when she has nothing new to say she still writes. I certainly felt that about 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel and I felt it about this too. However, not everyone agrees with me.
View all 48 comments. Jane Smiley is a natural born storyteller and she writes characters that are so relatable. The Langdons are such a regular family, raising their children and farming their land in Iowa. The story starts in and everything we learn of a historical context we learn from the effect it had on the family and their community, such as the great depression, droughts when they had to fight to keep their farm going.
We hear from each family member, even the young children. Frankie was such a scamp, alw Jane Smiley is a natural born storyteller and she writes characters that are so relatable. Frankie was such a scamp, always in trouble and his thoughts often made me smile. We follow their sorrows, their joys, their hardships and their successes. As the children get older, finding lives of their own we are shown more history, the war, the threat of communism and eventually the fears of Russian spies.
The book is divided into yearly chapters, ending in I felt like I could have been reading the life story of people I know. Her writing is just so natural, flowing, her characters so complete. Generational novels can be challenging, sometimes overstuffed but Smiley gave us just enough of each character to let us know them without boring us with needless details. I will so miss this family and am glad this is the first part of a trilogy.
Looking forward to catching up with their lives once again. I also appreciate that this story was linear, no going back and forth in time, just from character to character. As you can tell I loved this book. ARC from publisher. View all 19 comments. Sep 10, Angela M rated it really liked it. I'm just not sure how I have come this far in my reading life without have read anything by Jane Smiley until now.
I'm sure this will not be my last. This is one of those stories without major action , just ordinary people living their lives and handling what life deals them. But yet Smiley shows us that these people are extraordinary in their own way. I love these family sagas spanning a period of time because their lives are a canvas for what is happening in the country over these years.
T I'm just not sure how I have come this far in my reading life without have read anything by Jane Smiley until now. This is the story of the Langdon's , an Iowa farming family whose lives are presented to us in chapters from - Through the years , their lives reflect the history of the country.
The characters are realistic and Smiley allows us to know this family in an intimate way as we see their development through events in history. What impacted me the most was her portrayal of the beauty and hardships of everyday life through this family. I'm looking forward to meeting again in the next books of the trilogy.
May 22, Tyler Goodson rated it it was amazing Shelves: arcs. This one snuck up on me. The first volume in a trilogy that will follow years in the life of the Langdon family of Denby, Iowa, we follow them now from to Each chapter contains one year in the life: from making supper to fighting a war to first love and first child, and Jane Smiley can write the beauty in the ordinary like no one else.
Structurally different from anything else I've read, I felt at first like I was simply being dropped into their lives over and over again, but as I This one snuck up on me. Structurally different from anything else I've read, I felt at first like I was simply being dropped into their lives over and over again, but as I approached , I realized how with those drops I had formed a vast ocean of feeling and, yes, love for this family.
And I can't wait to meet them again, next year. View 1 comment. Jul 23, jo added it Shelves: audio , us-regional. Sep 01, Marnie rated it did not like it. This is one of those books that you want to know how it ends, even the book is awful. I finished it and wondered what the point was, and why did I read it.
The story is told from numerous points of view, including the babies' first person account, which I found annoying. View all 7 comments. Oct 13, Cora rated it it was amazing. If you take away the technical challenge of filming the same actors over twelve years on an indie film's budget, what you have is a simple narrative structure--one child's life, told in quotidian moments, one year at a time.
Some Luck is the first entry in a trilogy that follows an Iowa family from to , one year per chapter. Some Luck ends in In the beginning, the Langdons are a sma There's something about Some Luck that reminded me of Richard Linklater's wonderful movie Boyhood. In the beginning, the Langdons are a small farming family--a young farmer, his wife, and their one year old son. They will eventually have six children, and Smiley is good at describing the sharply contrasting personalities of the children even at early ages. There are multiple passages told from the point of view of very small children, which are wonderfully free of sentiment and specific to character--I can't think of another novel that has done anything similar.
More remarkable still is how Smiley's year-by-year structure shows children becoming adults, step by step. I suspect I may have made this sound boring or slow, but to me it was neither. Like Boyhood, the passage of time seems as if it's moving a bit too fast; no sooner are you settled in the status quo than it changes again. And the passage of time and the gradual accumulation of incident create a growing emotional force and the sense of a world that is constantly expanding.
One of the final chapters includes a Thanksgiving dinner for twenty-three, many of whom are vivid characters that Smiley has followed since birth. In an early chapter, patriarch Walter Langdon grouses about the Osage-orange hedge through his farmland that obstructs access to the back acreage. Next year, he thinks, he'll have to get some men together to pull up the hedge. By the end of the book, it's his son grousing about the same hedge, making the same plans for "next year. Some Luck is about the alchemy that turns random accidents and incidents into the story of your family and where you came from.
I highly recommend it and I can't wait for the second volume. Jul 02, Sue rated it really liked it Shelves: kindle , historical-fiction , read Life from through in Some Luck, Jane Smiley has given us a multi-generational look at farm life, the life of the United States, and in some ways the world, during those decades of change.
While my initial reaction was to be unsure--why is this so fragmented? We begin with the young farmers, Walter and Rosanna and their first child, Frankie, the f Life from through in Some Luck, Jane Smiley has given us a multi-generational look at farm life, the life of the United States, and in some ways the world, during those decades of change.
Good Luck High Five
We begin with the young farmers, Walter and Rosanna and their first child, Frankie, the foundation of this Langdon family. There are others involved, neighbors, cousins, grandparents, etc and all the future in-laws to come, but Walter and Rosanna are the bedrock. We see this extended family through their own observations of their lives and families. The book is constructed with episodes of alternating viewpoints. As more children are born and situations change, more viewpoints are added. And we continue to move through the years.
Each year has a chapter.
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And as the children grow, the story moves out from the sole focus of the farm to more of the world. I found many quotable moments that I used in my status updates and there are more for other readers to find. For me, Smiley has very successfully completed this first of a projected trilogy and I plan to read the next book.
View all 6 comments. Nov 30, Lori rated it it was amazing. When I began this I was not sure how I was going to like the format but I am so glad that I stuck with it. The transitions between characters were so smooth that it really gave it a nice easy flow. The simpleness in which this story was told reminded me of watching the Walton's on tv. Just an ordinary family going through the different stages of their lives. I loved each of the characters and am so glad that I get to continue their journey in the next novel.
If your looking for a family saga you When I began this I was not sure how I was going to like the format but I am so glad that I stuck with it. If your looking for a family saga you can just wrap yourself up in I would strongly recommend moving this of the top of your To Read List. View 2 comments.
Sep 06, Bonnie Brody rated it it was ok. It encompasses the years through , with each chapter covering one year in the family's life. The chapters are short and the novel is more like a log than an in-depth character study. I viewed it as a stone skipping over water. It touched on things without going into real depth. As the novel opens, matriarch Rosanna is 20 years old and her husband Walter is They have just purchased a farm in r Some Luck, by Jane Smiley, is the first novel in a trilogy about the Langdon family of Iowa.
They have just purchased a farm in rural Iowa. They have their first child, Frank, who is in many ways the protagonist of this novel. He is oppositional, strong-willed, but fairly shallow despite his high intellect. Joey, his younger brother, is meek, prone to whining, and Frank picks on him mercilessly. Lillian is the apple of Rosanna's eye and has a maternal bent from her early years. Some Luck is the first novel in the dazzling Last Hundred Years trilogy from the winner of the Pulitzer Prize Jane Smiley; a literary adventure that will spans a century in America.
After his return from the battlefields in France, Walter Langdon and his wife Rosanna begin their life together on a remote farm in Iowa. As time passes, their little family will grow: from Frank, the handsome, wilful first-born, to Joe, whose love of animals and the land sustains him; from Lillian, beloved by her mother, to Henry who craves only the world of his books; and Claire, the surprise baby, who earns a special place in her father's heart.
As Walter and Rosanna struggle to keep their family through good years and hard years - to years more desperate than they ever could have imagined, the world around their little farm will turn, and life for their children will be unrecognizable from what came before. Some will fall in love, some will have families of their own, some will go to war and some will not survive.
All will mark history in their own way. Tender, compelling and moving from the s to the s, told in multiple voices as rich as the Iowan soil, Some Luck is an astonishing feat of storytelling by a prize-winning author writing at the height of her powers.