Edna Ferber - So Big

So Big

by Edna Ferber

Published: 1924

So Big was inspired by the life of Antje Paarlberg in the Dutch community of South Holland, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. It won the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel in 1925.

Antje Paarlberg was married to Klaas Paarlberg in 1835, but the couple decided to emigrate to America in 1847 in search of a better life with their seven surviving children. Klaas died at sea on the journey to America leaving Antje to provide for her family in a strange country on her own.

The heroine of Edna Ferber's novel - Selina Peake DeJong - was inspired by the "Widow" Paarlberg's story, although the story Ferber tells does not adhere closely to the details of Paarlberg's life. But there are similarities as both the real-life Paarlberg and the heroine of Ferber's become farmers who struggle to stay afloat through widowhood and single parenthood.

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