- Moo by Jane Smiley
Flamingo, 414 pp, £15.99, May 1995, ISBN 0 00 225235 X
Jane Smiley’s gift for making the unthinkable I compulsively readable is most apparent in her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel A Thousand Acres, a transposition of King Lear to contemporary Iowa. Larry Cook is an ageing farmer who, by dint of hard work, canny management and lack of aversion to profiting from the misfortunes of others, has built up his farm to 1000 acres. ‘The seemingly stationary fields are always flowing toward one farmer and away from another. The lesson my father might say they prove is that a man gets what he deserves by creating his own good luck,’ says the narrator, his daughter Ginny. In Zebulon County there are rifts over land and money between and within families, historic disputes which ‘bum so hot’ that they ‘engulf every other subject’. If land cannot be won back in one lifetime the imperative to reclaim it is the legacy one generation leaves to the next.