I finished this sweeping novel of Texas while on an airplane, bound for my first visit to that great state. I had earlier sent a call out to my friends, asking what one should read before one's first trip to Texas, and when I saw that this suggestion was written by the author of So Big, a novel I loved, I knew I'd found a winner.
I was right.
Giant is absolutely a tale of Texas in the earlier part of this century, shortly after the Great War. It's a tale of ranches and cattle, dust and mesquite, Mexicans and Americans. We learn Texas history, geography and lore through the eyes of Leslie, a Virginian, the new bride of the famous rancher Bick Benedict. Leslie is a thinker, a talker, a reader - thirsty for knowledge and meaning, and constantly driving her husband crazy with her endless questioning.
I loved this book as a study of a marriage - East married to West, a thinking woman and a hard-working man and how they try to find a place of harmony in the land that he's crazy about and she's trying to fit herself into without loosing the woman that she is.
Ferber is a master at her art, the writing is of the kind that I read with a pen in hand, reading phrases and paragraphs twice to let the beauty of an idea or description really sink in. Sometimes it reminded me vaguely of Austen, some of the characters caricatures of the embittered old ranch madama, the rancher's daughter, the clucking hordes of unthinking cattle wives and the Stetson headed county commissioner. But, like in Austen, it rings true and gives and interesting offset and comparison to the main characters.
Okay, I'm gushing. I loved it. The beginning confused me a bit with lots of characters, but after a few chapters we go back in time to an earlier part of the story and I loved piecing it all together. If I wasn't already on my way to that state, I'd want to be.