Friday, April 13

Book: The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck Click for more info

I must admit that when I started this book I was a bit flustered. It's the second in the book group series we started a couple of months back, and after hearing it was written by Steinbeck of Of Mice and Men fame (a book I didn't really enjoy) I was preparing myself for a slog of a read in order to get ready for the meeting.

I think that I've written before how I'm not really a fan of heavily descriptive writings (see: The Lord of the Rings), since I prefer to imagine some things for myself and would much prefer words to be used to bring characters to life. This book does this almost deliberately, leaving every other chapter to depart from the main narrative and give the reader a quick lesson about the issues about to be faced in the next "story" chapter. And so it was a bit of a chore for me at first. I think I may have even skipped the first chapter in contempt.

But then the book got better. Much better. All of a sudden I found myself in the Deep South, losing my own farm and having to migrate to California. I knew the Joad family personally, I had grown up with them and was concerned about their welfare in their current situation. I championed the heroes and booed the bad guys. To say I was taken in was a bit of an understatement; this book was a legitimate page turner.

Suspension of belief aside, the book is also quite scarily ahead of its time in terms of the issues it talks about. It considers faceless capitalisation, greed and desperation, human displacement and immigration as well as a horde of other social issues. I wouldn't be surprised if the book was used in Sociology as well as Literature classes.

I don't think there's much more to say in just a book review, although I can't wait for the group meeting since there's so many ancillary issues and themes to talk about. The Sunday Times says on the book's jacket of Steinbeck: "A novelist who is also a true poet", and I only realised what they meant after finishing.

As much a must read as a book can possibly get.