Sunday, April 04, 2021

Giant - Edna Ferber

I had meant to read So Big, the novel that won Edna Ferber the Pulitzer Prize, for the Back to the Classics challenge but while procuring a copy I got sidetracked (Squirrel!) by Giant and decided to read it instead. I knew I wanted to read something by Edna Ferber because I absolutely loved Showboat as a teen and read it a few times, and I think she is one of those forgotten 20th century authors who deserve a place in the pantheon. Not sure why she is rarely read anymore--her writing is strong, her stories and characters are strong, and she is thoughtful and insightful.

On to Giant. All I knew about Giant was that it was set in Texas and was made into an iconic movie starring Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean, who died before the film was finished and so his final speech was dubbed by another actor.

Okay, now really onto Giant. Leslie is a Virginia blueblood, attractive, smart, witty. Jordan (aka Bick Benedict) is a Texas rancher whose lineage goes back to the Alamo days, and Jett Rink is a surly cowhand on Bick's ranch who strikes oil. Leslie marries Jordan, and Jett falls in love with her.

Leslie works hard to become a good Texas wife - she learns to live with the heat, the dust, the food, the socializing, the braggadocio, the family squabbles - and she succeeds. She manages her husband and wins friends and allies that take the edge off her homesickness for Virginia and the home and family she left behind.

The story spans the 1920s to the early 1950s - both world wars play incredibly minor roles in the story, but civil rights and racism do come to figure prominently. Giant is essentially a story about Texas as seen through the eyes of Leslie, the outsider.

Ferber has an interesting style in that she teeters on the edge of stream of consciousness by dropping commas and stringing together thoughts and things that would normally be punctuated. I found it effective and interesting.

I'm interested in finally watching the movie, but coming in at over three hours, I will probably have to wait until I retire to put together sufficient time to watch it!

And I still want to read So Big and Cimarron and maybe reread Showboat.


  1. Intriguing! I read So Big last year and really enjoyed it. I still want to read Giant, especially since I spent many years in Texas. Of course I was in a modern city so nothing like Leslie, but it sounds interesting.

    And I'm with you about the three-hour movies, I can hardly watch a two hour movie at one sitting any more. Too many distractions at home, I'll be very happy to return to theaters when it's safe.

  2. Hi Jane,

    I have So Big on my list for this year's Back to the Classics Challenge but your review makes me want to read Giant too. Its hard to know why Edna Ferber is not as read today or discussed as she once was. Partly it nay have to do with gender. But I also think that in the early 20th century of American literature 4 names Fitzgerald, Hemmingway, Faulkner and Steinbeck continue to get the lionshare of the attention so that writers from 1900 -1950 have gotten overshadowed.

  3. I've seen the movie, but have never read the book. It'd be interesting to see how the two compare.

  4. I watched the movie ages ago, but have yet to read anything by Ferber. She's on my Classics Club list.

  5. Quite a picture of the three film stars. A bit hard to imagine Liz Taylor in Texas, ha. 3 hour movie eh? Was the book long? Sounds a bit interesting. thx for the review

  6. I loved the film "Giant" and had absolutely no idea it was based on a book. Looks like another to add to my TBR.

  7. I've seen part of the film on TV. I think it was probably not three hours! I've long wanted to read Edna Ferber and I agree, she should be more widely known and read. Instead of reading, say The Great Gatsby or The Scarlet Letter, students could read her books for and understanding of American literature for sure.

  8. I don't think I've ever read any Ferber. Would this be a good book group choice?

    1. It's hard to say--on the one hand, there is a lot to discuss about stereotypes, the west vs the east, women's roles, but it was written in the 1950s, making it not traditional classic (like a Dickens) but not modern lit either.