Kim's Reviews > The Grapes of Wrath

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
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Jul 30, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: audiobook, all-time-favourites
Read from July 30 to August 11, 2012


The Pulitzer Prize winning novel of 1940, this is the story of the Joad family, Oklahoma tenant farmers displaced from their land by the combined effects of ecological disaster, rampant capitalism and the Great Depression. The narrative follows the family as they travel from Oklahoma to California in search of work, along with hundreds of thousands of others in the same situation. Woven into the story of the Joads are chapters dealing with issues such as the attitude of Californians to the influx of migrant workers and the exploitation and mistreatment to which they were subjected.

There is nothing about this novel which I don't love: Steinbeck's wonderful use of language, his ability to create memorable characters, his descriptions of the natural world, his use of symbolism and - probably most of all - his passion. Steinbeck is not a writer who hides himself behind his words: his humanism, his left-wing political views, his compassion for those whose story he tells are all right there in the text. Listening to the audiobook - which is superbly narrated by John Chancer - I felt I was getting to know Steinbeck as well as his characters. One of the things I most like about Steinbeck's writing is the sense that he wrote what he knew, not just what he had imagined or researched. When Steinbeck writes about displaced people, the reader is sure that he knew such people personally. When he describes a land turtle, it's because he had observed how a land turtle moves. When he has his characters carry out repairs to their truck, he knows what they would do because he's carried out those same repairs himself. Steinbeck lives and breathes in his writing.

While this is the story of "Okies" in depression-era California, it's also the story of all those who have been forced to leave their homes - whether because of natural disaster, economic crisis, or conflict - and found themselves poor, hungry and desperate in a place where they are not welcome. It's a story which is repeated over and over, all over the world. The novel made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me angry and it made me sad. However, it also gave me hope. There is an essential humanity and a deep vein of hope in Steinbeck's characters: bad things happen to them, but they work hard to survive. And they know the power of love, of loyalty and of connectedness to each other.

I will be forever grateful that a stopover in Monterey during a drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles prompted me to finally start reading Steinbeck. I'd give this book ten stars if I could. It's quite simply a masterpiece.
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Quotes Kim Liked

John Steinbeck
“And the little screaming fact that sounds through all history: repression works only to strengthen and knit the repressed.”
John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath


Reading Progress


Comments (showing 1-37 of 37) (37 new)

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Megan Baxter Such an amazing book. I read it a couple of years ago when we were approaching month 8 my husband had been without work, and that made it difficult to read on top of everything that was going on, but it's so powerful.


message 2: by Anna (new)

Anna Reading any of your reviews gives my brain a good workout, Kim! ;-)


Gary  the Bookworm What an excellent review. I agree completely although I haven't read this in many years. Maybe it's time for a reread!


Suzanne I've taught this to unwilling 17 year olds who by the end,knew American history and culture. many of my students were new Americans. They weren't sure if this was fiction or nonfiction because the narrator's voice was so true and clear. I'm glad you enjoyed. You'll like East of Eden, too.


message 5: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Megan wrote: "Such an amazing book. I read it a couple of years ago when we were approaching month 8 my husband had been without work, and that made it difficult to read on top of everything that was going on,..."

I can understand how that would have made the experience of reading this book even more powerful, Megan. I hope everything worked out okay for your husband.

Anna wrote: "Reading any of your reviews gives my brain a good workout, Kim! ;-)"

Glad to be of service, ma'am! ;D

Gary wrote: "What an excellent review. I agree completely although I haven't read this in many years. Maybe it's time for a reread!"

Thanks, Gary. I'm in that space of wanting to read every word Steinbeck ever wrote. I was going to pace myself a bit, but I couldn't resist moving straight on to Travels with Charley: In Search of America. Talk about a man ahead of his time. There he is in 1960, writing about the fact that Americans throw away more stuff than they use and expressing the view that disposal of stuff such as excess packaging materials was going to be a huge problem in the future.

Suzanne wrote: "I've taught this to unwilling 17 year olds who by the end,knew American history and culture. many of my students were new Americans. They weren't sure if this was fiction or nonfiction because th..."

I'm sure that I'm going to love East of Eden, Suzanne. Teaching this book must be an amazing experience. I'm not sure that I would have appreciated it so much at age 17, but I can really understand your students' reaction. Steinbeck's gives his characters totally authentic voices and his own voice is just as authentic.


Lisa Vegan Kim, I am not a Steinbeck (or Hemingway) fan, but I do love this story. Your review has got me thinking I should try it again. I think I'd love the story even more now, and maybe I'd now be able to appreciate his use of language.


Lisa Vegan And, yes, he knew of what he wrote, at least with this book. He was from Salinas, one of the main agricultural areas in the state.


message 8: by Kim (last edited Aug 13, 2012 05:26PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim From what I understand, Steinbeck was seen as something of a class traitor for writing this book, as his family were landowners and one of his sisters was married to one of the major growers in the Salinas area. The book was burned in Bakersfield and banned in a number of places.

This is a link to a story about that issue on NPR:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/st...


Lisa Vegan Kim, Interesting. He's now treated as a hero in that area.


Diane Lisa, I have this book and have wanted to read it. Would you be interested in a future buddy read with me for it? (Might not be this year...)


message 11: by Lisa (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lisa Vegan Diane D. wrote: "Lisa, I have this book and have wanted to read it. Would you be interested in a future buddy read with me for it? (Might not be this year...)"

Maybe in 2013, yes, Diane. Not this year for me either.


message 12: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Abigail wrote: "Ah well, he's in good company then. They used to call FDR a class traitor as well, if memory serves...."

That sounds familiar. It is ironic that Steinbeck copped so much flak in his hometown, when (as Lisa says) he's now a hero in the area. From what I could see earlier this year, a whole industry has grown up around Steinbeck in that part of the world. But I guess there's nothing unusual about that either.


Diane Lisa wrote: "Diane D. wrote: "Lisa, I have this book and have wanted to read it. Would you be interested in a future buddy read with me for it? (Might not be this year...)"

Maybe in 2013, yes, Diane. Not this ..."


I will put a sticky note with your name on my copy. It's a date!


message 14: by Lewis (new) - added it

Lewis Weinstein An excellent review. Thank you.


message 15: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Lewis wrote: "An excellent review. Thank you."

Thanks, Lewis.


message 16: by Lisa (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lisa Vegan Diane D. wrote: "I will put a sticky note with your name on my copy. It's a date! "

Diane, wonderful! Please remind me at the end of the year or the beginning of the year so we can hopefully find a time in 2013 that works for both of us.


Diane Lisa wrote: "Diane D. wrote: "I will put a sticky note with your name on my copy. It's a date! "

Diane, wonderful! Please remind me at the end of the year or the beginning of the year so we can hopefully find ..."


I will add that to the sticky note :)


message 18: by Lisa (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lisa Vegan Thanks, Diane!


message 19: by Karlyne (new)

Karlyne Landrum I read Steinbeck, Hemingway and Faulkner as a teenager (none of them "required" reading - I just found them in the library), and I remembered that I found Hemingway too stark and depressing, Faulkner terrifically wordy and out-of-my-league, but Steinbeck? Well, he's the only one I still read...!


message 20: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Karlyne wrote: "I read Steinbeck, Hemingway and Faulkner as a teenager (none of them "required" reading - I just found them in the library), and I remembered that I found Hemingway too stark and depressing, Faulkn..."

Karlyne, I've read Hemingway in the past, but not for ages. Not a favourite I must admit, although I'm planning to read his memoir of living in Paris soon. Faulkner I've never read. I tell myself that I must, particularly as I now know that he was one of Steinbeck's favourite novelists. In the meantime I have fallen in love with Steinbeck's writing. I'm just glad that there's plenty more of it to read!


message 21: by Lewis (new) - added it

Lewis Weinstein Hemingway's Paris memoir is a terrific read.


message 22: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Lewis wrote: "Hemingway's Paris memoir is a terrific read."

A secondhand copy arrived in the mail last week and I'm looking forward to reading it. Seeing the Woody Allen film Midnight in Paris rekindled my interest in the period, and as I'm going to France for a month next year, it seemed like a good time to read some Hemingway.


message 23: by Lisa (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lisa Vegan Midnight in Paris was such a fabulous movie. I liked Hemingway there. Funny!


Diane Agree! Great movie. After reading The Paris Wife and A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition, I want to see it again.


message 25: by Lewis (last edited Aug 15, 2012 09:45PM) (new) - added it

Lewis Weinstein If you go to Paris, you may want to eat at Polidor, the authentic restaurant where "Hemingway" hung out in "Midnight in Paris." See our travel blog at ... http://patandlewtravel.wordpress.com/...


Diane Oh I wished we had conversed 2 days ago. A friend is on her way to Paris right now! No way for me to send her this info.


message 27: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Lewis wrote: "If you go to Paris, you may want to eat at Polidor, the authentic restaurant where "Hemingway" hung out in "Midnight in Paris." See our travel blog at ... http://patandlewtravel.wordpress.com/......"

Thanks for the link to your blog, Lew, which I've bookmarked. We plan to spend a bit of time in the south of France on a Van Gogh pilgrimage. I see that we will be following in your footsteps.


message 28: by Lewis (new) - added it

Lewis Weinstein Following Van Gogh's footsteps was a very emotional journey.


message 29: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Lewis wrote: "Following Van Gogh's footsteps was a very emotional journey."

I think it will be for me too. I've wanted to do it since I went to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam a few years ago.


message 30: by Lewis (new) - added it

Lewis Weinstein Enjoy your trip. Let me know how it goes.


message 31: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Lewis wrote: "Enjoy your trip. Let me know how it goes."

Thanks and I will. We're not going until March, so it's not exactly happening soon.


Denise Harvey Great review,the story of the American farmers brings tears to my eyes.


Dolors "Steinbeck is not a writer who hides himself behind his words: his humanism, his left-wing political views, his compassion for those whose story he tells are all right there in the text." Could say it louder but not clearer. A powerful review which reflects your own passion for Steinbeck as a writer and as a compassionate human being.


message 34: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Dolors wrote: "Could say it louder but not clearer. A powerful review which reflects your own passion for Steinbeck as a writer and as a compassionate human being. ..."

Thanks, Dolors. I am definitely passionate about Steinbeck's writing. He put so much of himself into this book and suffered so much for having written it.


Renato Magalhães Rocha Great, beautiful review, Kim! I wasn't expecting to love this so much... to be honest I only read it because of a group read... now I'm glad I did!


Himanshu It is such a pleasure to sift through your reviews of Steinbeck and find the same passionate admiration that I hold for him. This one is exquisite, Kim.


message 37: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Thank you for your kind comments, Renato and Himanshu.


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