Book Review – Some Luck

by Jane Smiley (Mantle) ISBN 978 1 4472 7559 6

Some Luck is the first part of The Last Hundred Years Trilogy. Volumes two and three will appear in 2015. The author explains: “The Langdon family saga begins in 1920 on a modest (and heavily indebted) farm. Some Luck ends in 1953, but the Langdons’ story will end in 2020 (yes, I am spending some time in front of my crystal ball!). Generations will be born and thrive and suffer and die, thrust by American history into circumstances they cannot foresee.”

It would be a mistake to assume that this beautifully executed verbal painting of life in the Iowa countryside is merely the first panel of a chocolate box triptych, pretty, pleasing and without lasting depth. It is moving, thought-provoking and memorable. The author’s vivid characters draw the reader into their lives as they experience American and global historical events, political changes and technological advances.

Jane Smiley (65) spent a post graduate year as a Fulbright Scholar in Iceland. She earned a PhD from the University of Iowa where she held a professorship in English for 15 years. She has published 14 novels. A Thousand Acres received the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. She has written a series of novels for young adults, as well as a television script, short stories and five non-fiction books. Two of her stories have been made into films.

In 2001 Jane Smiley was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters and in 2006 she received the PEN USA Lifetime Achievement Award for Literature.

Irene Roper

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Jane Smiley is a prolific author, and won a Pulitzer for A Thousand Acres. If you are a fan of family sagas, you will enjoy this book.

Some Luck is set from 1920 to 1953, each year a chapter in the lives of the Langdon family. The book is the first in a trilogy, which is intended to end in 2019. As the story unfolds, told from the perspective of various family members, you discover how historical events impacted on the lives of this farming community.

The book had its moments. There was some lovely writing. The story’s pace moved nicely, and the characters were interesting, and quite endearing, if not very dramatic. Perhaps it is the hallmark of an experienced author to tell a story without too much hype and penchant for melodrama, but I found it rather dull. It didn’t matter when I tried to read, I often nodded off. This is not gripping, but it is a good holiday read.

Bev Bouwer

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Posted on: 11th November 2014