The first instalment in the Pulitzer Prize-winner's masterpiece - a trilogy following one family over a hundred years
Jane Smiley is a novelist and essayist. Her novel A Thousand Acres won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1992, and her novel The All True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton won the 1999 Spur Award for Best Novel of the West. She has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1987. Her novel Horse Heaven was short-listed for the Orange Prize in 2002, and her latest novel, Private Life, was chosen as one of the best books of 2010 by The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and The Washington Post.
So here it is at last, the Great American Novel and, in retrospect, it seems obvious that the great Jane Smiley would be the one who wrote it. Some Luck is a Steinbeckian Little House on the Prairie: a rural tragedy, a domestic epic and an unassuming masterpiece. And, unlike most masterpieces, it's absorbing, witty, painful, pleasurable. You must read it. * Charlotte Mendelson, Booker/Orange Prize nominated author of Almost English and When We Were Bad * A masterpiece in the making . . . intimate, miraculous-the auspicious beginning of an American saga every bit as ambitious as Updike's magnum opus, anchored in the satisfactions and challenges of life on a farm, but expanding to various American cities and beyond . . . Frank is one of the most fascinating and complex characters in recent fiction. The way Smiley gets deep inside all the children's heads is a staggering literary feat in which we see human character being assembled in something that feels like real time. An abundant harvest. * USA Today * Some Luck is set in the rural farming community of the Midwestern America state of Iowa, the world previously evoked by Jane Smiley so successfully in her 1991 Pulitzer Prize-winning hit A Thousand Acres . . . Fans of big-cast family sagas with love and death and the world at large impinging only lightly - but tellingly - on events will love Some Luck. It is an easy and engrossing read with the cornfields, the snowstorms and the technological developments of the 20th century vividly evoked. * Independent * Try to pin Jane Smiley down at your peril: she is as likely to write a campus novel (Moo) as a 14th-century historical saga (The Greenlanders) or a foray into the world of breeders and racetracks (Horse Heaven) . . . Some Luck is not simply an observation of family life and the pressures it is naturally susceptible to; it is also a dissection of the idea of family, and of the truths its facade will shield from view. * Guardian * Smiley's gifts as a storyteller are in full force from the first page, drawing us into the lives of the characters. The children especially, with their emerging personalities, are marvellously evoked. * Financial Times * Smiley is a master storyteller, with a penchant for turning archetypal allegories into seemingly straightforward, contemporary narratives . . . Jane Smiley is that rare three-fer: meticulous historian, intelligent humorist and seasoned literary novelist. But what makes a Smiley novel identifiably and deliciously hers alone is a unique brand of impassioned critical patriotism . . . Some Luck is the first in a trilogy to be called "The Last Hundred Years." Like Smiley herself, the project is ambitious and coyly clever. * LA TIMES * Audaciously delicious . . . Every character here steals our heart. Smiley has turned her considerable talents to the story of an Iowa farm and the people who inhabit it. The suspense is found in the impeccably drawn scenes and in the myriad ways in which Smiley narrows and opens her camera's lens. Her language has the intimacy of a first-person telling; her stance is in-the-moment. Always at the narrative hearth stand Walter and Rosanna and that Iowa farm, a character in its own right, a landscape remembered by those who flee to Chicago, Italy, San Francisco, Washington D.C. and New York . . . We read these lives, and we find our own. * CHICAGO TRIBUNE * Some Luck opens with a Langdon family tree. Even before we get to know Rosanna, Walter, and their children, the sprawling branches reveal the scope of this novel, which begins in 1920. Smiley, who devotes a chapter per year to the Langdons' Iowa farm life, depicts both disasters and heartbreaks in an unruffled tone. The good news? This is the first of a trilogy. The bad news? We have to wait for the next volume. * ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY * Engaging, bold . . . Smiley delivers a straightforward, old-fashioned tale of rural family life in changing times, depicting isolated farm life with precision . . . It is especially satisfying to hear a powerful writer narrate men's and women's lives lovingly and with equal attention. Subtle, wry and moving. * WASHINGTON POST * Moving and alert and alive . . . A book about the ordinary nothings that, in the end, are everything . . . To capture this experience - finitude, love, sorrow, the rise and fall of generations - is insanely difficult. To foster the illusion of realism in a novelistic fantasy, to convey the passage of time. * Spectator * Some Luck is as rich, beautiful and brilliant as Smiley's Pulitzer-Prize-winning A Thousand Acres. Place bets now for this year's Booker. -- Kate Saunders, Costa-winning author and critic * Saga magazine *