Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck

The Grapes of Wrath
Title: The Grapes of Wrath
Author: John Steinbeck
Publication Date: 1939
Pages: 496
Genre: Classic / Historical / Fiction
How I Found It: 100 Best Novels list
Date Completed: 12/14/15

Summary: The Dust Bowl forced thousands of families west to promised work in California. Steinbeck's classic follows the journey of one such family.

What I Thought: Steinbeck is an author I feel as though I should love. I really do. I want to love his work. In high school, I enjoyed Of Mice and Men. The Grapes of Wrath has long been on my TBR list, even before I took on the 100 Best Novels challenge. When I also put it on my 2015 TBR Pile Challenge list, I had no idea it would be such a chore to finish. It took me nearly the entire year - a fact I was not anticipating in the slightest. 

Steinbeck's prose is beautiful. I would never say differently. The chapters of the novel which focus solely on nameless descriptions of landscape or the mundane moments of the travelers' lives were stunning. I loved the writing and reveled in those pockets tucked throughout the book. It was the rest of the book that slowed me down...

It never helps when you struggle to connect with the characters. From the start, none of the Joads family found a place in my heart. They were not particularly unlikeable, but neither were they particularly likeable to me. It's hard for me to relate to characters picking up their belongings and traveling west to escape crop failure. Unlike with Of Mice and Men, I couldn't find the thread of common humanity to grasp on to. That's probably a controversial statement with Steinbeck fans, but it is true of my own experience.

The real death knell for me and this book, though - and I absolutely hate to admit this - was the written style of the dialogue. One of my huge reading pet peeves is when an author spells out dialect. I understand that your characters speak that way and you want to get that across to the reader; I really do. But, for me, it is a huge distraction. It takes so much away from the story for me. I'm more focused on discerning the flow of the conversation than I am its content. This is 100% personal preference, of course, but it does affect how I read books like this. A little bit of this technique is fine, but Steinbeck uses it heavily and I found it quite disrupting to my immersion in the plot. 

All in all, I am really glad I have read this book now. It's one of those ones from the list that I'm sure will come up at parties or social gatherings (or at least I hope it my dreams I socialize with a very literary adept squad). I am glad to have experienced it and be able to discuss it at least on a general level. Still, I doubt I would come back to it without an outside catalyst. Maybe I'll just pick of Of Mice and Men again instead. 

Rating: ★★★☆☆
Will I Re-Read: Probably only if required to

A Reduced Review: I really wanted to love this true American classic, but I struggled to get into it and have no love lost having finally completed it. 

I'm proud to remind you that this book is on my 2015 TBR Pile Challenge list.  I'm so excited I joined this challenge this year. I am enjoying having some structure to my TBR and the change to make intentional choices about what I read next. Make sure you check out the rest of my list and way the challenge played out throughout the year. 

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