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Cannery Row (Cannery Row #1)
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1001 book reviews > Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

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Diane Zwang | 1214 comments Mod
Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
3.5/5 stars

After finishing the book I decided to read the introduction to figure out what I just read. Susan Shillinglaw describes it this way: “In its very dislocations and jarring shifts in tone and voice and character, this tough and charming little book weaves strands of Steinbeck's non-teleological acceptance of what “is,” his ecological vision, and his own memories of a street and the people who make it home.” I would wholeheartedly agree with that statement.

I expected the book to be about the canneries or the people who worked there but it was not at all. Instead it was about a group of people who live on the fringes of life, something that seems to be a theme in all three Steinbeck books that I have read. He chose to write about the disenfranchised. I felt it was a glimpse into their lives as I never really got to know any character very well.

Steinbeck does paint a vivid picture when he writes. I could see the locale and smell the ocean. The frog escapade and cat round-up also made me laugh in what was a mostly gloomy story. There was no happy ending for anyone on Cannery Row.


message 2: by Melissa (last edited Nov 17, 2017 12:20PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Melissa Rating 3.5 out of 5

I enjoyed this short novel of Steinbeck's! Honestly going in I was worried, his novels tend to be bleak and have some very difficult passages, but this one set on cannery row was much lighter than his other works I've read. I fully enjoyed watching the inhabitants of this story cross paths, interact, and watching how things played out from their various perspectives. This one is a great work on perspective (POV) changing everything, and could also use the tag line made famous by its use in his other work: '...the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray....'


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... | 894 comments 4 Stars

I am obsessed with everything Steinbeck writes. His style is simple and spare and beautiful. He illustrates the circumstances of life, the tragedies of life, with quiet and beautiful attention to the characters that drive the plot. This book is my least favorite of the books I have read thus far, and I still loved it. Not a lot happens in this one. The events are quieter and less tumultuous than in my favorites, but it provides a wonderfully rich glimpse into the lives of the people who live in the time and place. Cannery Row is filled with noise and smells. It is filled with poverty. It is filled with people I would like to meet, and thanks to Steinbeck I did!


Diane Zwang | 1214 comments Mod
Kelly wrote: "4 Stars

I am obsessed with everything Steinbeck writes. His style is simple and spare and beautiful. He illustrates the circumstances of life, the tragedies of life, with quiet and beautiful atten..."


Kelly well said and I agree. Welcome to the group!


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... | 894 comments Thank you! I think I have added all my List Books that I read in 2017.


Kristel (kristelh) | 3958 comments Mod
Read: 7/2/2012
Rating: 3 stars

Review: Cannery Row is a series of vignettes about Doc and a group of characters that reside in Monterrey, California in an area called Cannery Row. Cannery Row is “…a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light…..” made up of whores, pimps, gamblers or saints, angels, martyrs depending on how you want to look at it. Doc is one of the key characters and is called Doc because he is college educated and is running a business collecting marine animals and other animals for college research and use. He is surrounded by Mack and the gang, the Chinese grocer, Dora and her house of prostitution. The town is a canning town for sardines, the time period is during the Great Depression and these people are resourceful Americans who are surviving. Love Steinbeck’s writing. This book is poetic and is more about place and community that about any one person. I do think it is semi autobiographical as Steinbeck actually studied science and Stanford University and was a qualified marine biologist. It probably isn’t the best representation of Steinbeck’s writing but it gives a picture of Steinbeck and of Monterrey during the depression.


Leni Iversen (leniverse) | 435 comments This relatively short book had a surprisingly long introduction that compared the book to Moby Dick and talked about how Steinbeck himself claimed that Cannery Row had four layers of meaning. I didn't get much from the introduction as I haven't read Moby Dick and it was never explained what the four layers of meaning actually are. And I certainly couldn't identify them.

I found that there were chapters dealing with the area as a whole that were not really connected to the story (the gopher chapter being a case in point), and then there were the vignettes that came together to form, if not a plot, then at least a chronology. Clearly I missed a lot of references and symbolism or whatnot. But I still thoroughly enjoyed the book. And I consider that a mark of a classic, that it can be a trove of symbolism and interpretation but can also be taken at face value.

All in all I'd say this book is a declaration of love. Of love for an area that most people would avoid, of characters who live on the margins and are best avoided, and especially for the man the character Doc is based on. It's a bromance between Steinbeck and his subject matter. He comes close to romanticising alcoholism and outcast/marginal life, but he never shies away from the downside.


Jamie Barringer (Ravenmount) (ravenmount) | 467 comments I loved this book. It is short, so a fast read, and it was funny. The scene about hunting frogs was especially good, but the whole story was good, a view of life in a small town near Monterey Bay in California. A group of bums decide they want to throw a party for a man who has helped them out a lot in the past, and the party goes disastrously wrong. The town eventually recovers from the disaster, and throws a second, much better party.
Steinbeck weaves in descriptions of sea life along the coast, and of course the poor, disillusioned frogs who get captured by the bums, to fill an order and earn some money.
I gave this book 5 stars on Goodreads.


message 9: by Emu (new) - rated it 5 stars

Emu | 18 comments I loved it! I loved the slow pace of the book and I loved the descriptions of the area and the characters, which are subtle.

It is a quick read and its funny as well.


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