Saturday, March 29, 2008

Book - Giants in the Earth

I've been reading an awful lot of books that take place in the Dakotas, Nebraska, and Iowa lately. Some of them are pioneer tales, others modern mysteries. I am really curious about the land. I already have the Black Hills of South Dakota on the list of places I want to visit, because my mother was born there. Now I want to see the prairies, too. I know they won't be like the books, they are probably huge corporate farms now, and the little towns won't have dirt roads and aren't little anymore.

Most recently I read "Giants in the Earth" by O.E. Rolvaag. I've been having trouble figuring out what to say about it. Yes, I liked it, could barely put it down, but...I can't express it. I think this part of the introduction explains it. "Rolvaag is primarily interested in psychology, in the unfolding of character; the native American writer is primarily interested in plot and incident. Rolvaag is preoccupied with the human cost of empire building, rather than with its glamour and romance."

I realize that the book is about the people, but I guess I need to see the land more to understand what they were thinking. I need to feel the place. The book is about America but was originally written in Norwegian by Rolvaag, a Norwegian immigrant. The forward and introduction discuss this fact extensively. I wish I knew Norwegian so I could read the original, I think it would make a difference.

I've been struggling for days to write this and I'm not sure why. It's not because the story and ending are quite harsh, it's because of the characters. Beret is ill-suited to the hardships of pioneer life, and deals with it with religious fervor. Her husband knows of her depression, doesn't understand it, and that's it. I guess I can't relate to that kind of marriage or situation. And the concept of empire building and taming the earth. I just have a different point of view about that.


Patty said...

You might be surprised, if you get off of the Interstate system and actually drive through small towns in SD, some have dirt roads, some have pavement and some have asphalts. There are some big corporate farms but there are still a lot of locally owned, family owned ones as well.

Towns you might like to see - Viborg, Conde, Irene, Redfield, Presho (on the Interstate but still pretty small)and some in the Hills that are pretty small like Rochford, Hill City, and Belle Fourche.

Have fun on your trip here

Kristen said...

Thanks for another intriguing book review. I'll have to see if I can find this and Kristin Lavransdottir on audio.