Whats it all about?:
Shocking and controversial when it was first published in 1939, Steinbeck’s Pulitzer prize-winning epic remains his undisputed masterpiece. Set against the background of dust bowl Oklahoma and Californian migrant life, it tells of the Joad family, who, like thousands of others, are forced to travel West in search of the promised land. Their story is one of false hopes, thwarted desires and broken dreams, yet out of their suffering Steinbeck created a drama that is intensely human, yet majestic in its scale and moral vision; an eloquent tribute to the endurance and dignity of the human spirit.
What did I think?:
I read this book half out of curiosity as I had never read any Steinbeck before (and yes…Of Mice and Men is on my TBR list don’t shriek at me!) and half for a book club. I have to admit it started off pretty slow and it took me a while to get into it. Steinbeck was incredibly angry about what was going on in America during this time period and this book is definitely him sounding off. Did he do it well? Well, yes he did convince me in the end. I loved the way he put in interstitial chapters which took the reader away from the fictional Joad family directly, and informed you that this situation was actually happening. This passage was one that really spoke to me:
“The people come with nets to fish for potatoes in the river, and the guards hold them back; they come in rattling cars to get the dumped oranges but the kerosene is sprayed. And they stand still and watch the potatoes float by, listen to the screaming pigs being killed in a ditch and covered with quicklime, watch the mountains of oranges slop down to a putrefying ooze; and in the eyes of the people there is the failure; and in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy; growing heavy for the vintage.”
The Joad family have some intriguing characters – Noah who is a bit strange, Al the ladies man, Tom the jailbird, and the two slightly irritating younger children Ruthie and Winfield. Ma Joad had to be my favourite though, a woman not afraid to stand up and protect her family with dignity that demands respect. Everything considered, I’m glad I read this novel, a slow burner but its worth it.
Would I recommend it?:
Star rating (out of 5):