When I realized the movie "Giant" was based a book, and Edna Ferber was an author Carole had read and whose work she had enjoyed, I figured I'd find out if the book really is always being better.
Giant wasn't bad, but it wasn't good.
First of all, the book was not as grand and sweeping a tale as the movie — a full three-quarters of the book was set during the first six months Leslie, the new bride from Virginia, was in Texas. The rest of the book coasted along for the next two decades, then petered out. The saga started at the end, which I liked, but nowhere in the rest of the book was the opening scene set up or resolved. We get a few years down the road by the end of the book, but it's a short trip and not in the least bit exciting.
The characters were caricatures. Leslie's best friends were Texans with a capital "Tex" who were gauche and loud and selfish and Texas-centric. Bick's sister Luz was a joke, and she was supposed to be this immovable force who was more legend than real in the book. I couldn't help but see Leslie as Elizabeth Taylor and Bick as Rock Hudson as I read, and the book did them no justice. They weren't interesting or evolving or romantic. They were boring. Even Jett Rink was a snooze-fest, with a tepid love for Leslie, a limp hate of Bick and a alcoholism that wasn't tragic nor self-destructive.
Texas was a non-character. Texas, this bigger than life, sprawling state that is too big to know and too personal to not love, was not really there. Bick's beloved ranch was a minor footnote. His cattle, though, were there, sulking in the background, waiting their due.
There was lots of talk, talk, talk and yet no one really says anything. Everyone and everything skated across the top. Terrible conditions for Mexicans? Leslie hates it but that's only because she says so; there's no evidence that she feels that way. The next generation stirs up a lot of doscontent, with Jordy not wanting his father's life and Luz wanting into the businesses and Vashti's twins being spoiled brats, but we hear about it in passing, like it's background music we're supposed to vaguely recognize but not notice. Even Bick's future medical condition was glossed over, distractedly patted like a spoiled child you want to leave the room. No matter how serious things got, people didn't do more than have polite cocktail party conversation — except once, and that in the second-to-last chapter.
Gramatically, Ferber loved run-on sentences with stacks of verbs and adjectives. When three would do, she used them all without punctuation. It was distracting annoying ungrammatical incorrect. She should stop desist alter her rhythm choose a different tactic. Kind of like that, only really annoying.
So, my recommendation is to watch the movie and appreciate what Ferber brought to the party, but don't waste your time on the book.