Shocking and controversial when it was first published, 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.
©1939 John Steinbeck (P)2010 Hachette Digital
This is one of the best audiobooks I have ever listened to. John Chancer is superb at depicting each character so that I felt I personally knew them all by the end of the book. He brings an extra sense of place and atmosphere to Steinbeck’s words. The heart-breakingly shocking story of the Joad’s courageous journey to find work from exploitative landowners will stay with me for a long time. Equally, the humanity and generosity of spirit of those sharing their extremes of hardship restores ones faith in humans.
"Classic literature, superb narration"
I'll keep this short. The book is a classic and it is not difficult to understand why. It perhaps has a special resonance as the world goes through the current economic recession. The writing needs no praise from me. What was outstanding was the narration. The narrator brought the book and its characters vividly to life. His mastery of the subtleties of the text and the nuances of the language was demonstrated on every page.
"Salt of the earth"
Steinbeck defines the rural spirit of America. It is this spirit to which shallow politicians appeal in their search for votes and it is of this spirit that people think when they say "real America". The story traces a poor Oklahoma family - forced off the land where they have lived for generations - as they make their increasingly desperate trek westwards towards California, the Promised Land.
Every conceivable hardship and betrayal is visited on them and through it all the human spirit shines through. Steinbeck writes in a terse, masculine style. He clearly loves his characters and draws them well. His abrupt style sometimes leaves one yearning for more colour and more depth, but there can be no doubt that this is an America classic, worth reading to see a portrait of the pioneers who made that nation what it is – good or bad.
The narrator is excellent, sensitive and versatile.
John Steinbeck said "I've done my damndest to rip a reader's nerves to rags," about this book.
He achieved this with me.
By the end of it I felt battered. It has the effect of making you feel greatful for the things we have yet strangely depressed.
There is no point critiquing this book too much it's been done to death and is an established classic. But I'll just say it was very well read and a great story. A must read.
"Amazingly well read"
It's a really great book, of course. And this narrator brings it to life perfectly.
"Grapes of Wrath"
I listened to this story over a few weeks and enjoyed it immensely. The actor's range of accents was amazing. I really felt I was on the journey with the Joad family and wanted to know what happened to them afterwards. A great introduction to audible for me.
This reading is note perfect and utterly gripping. There's a nod to John Ford's magnificent film with John Chancer's voices for Ma, for Tom and for the preacher Casey, but that's a bonus rather than a distraction. This actor's produced a beautiful rendition of Steinbeck's masterly prose. It's such a sad tale full of savage beauty for a world that should be over and forgotten but these days is eerily present with the current drought in Oklahoma and the foreclosures of today's farms. Sadly today there's still the same prejudice and lack of humanity for the poor that Steinbeck so heroically champions through the fortunes of the wonderful Joad family. I can't recommend this highly enough.
A novel that until now I had never got round to reading, I was not disappointed. But, like any audio book, the narration can make or break the listener's enjoyment. John Chancer's narration for me managed to evoke perfectly the world of Steinbeck's prose. I deeply wanted to know the fate of the characters after the novel had ended.
"As shocking now as it was then"
I came to this novel with some ideas of what to expect - I knew it was long, and I knew it was regarded as Steinbeck's most important work. Despite these preconceived ideas I was blown away.
The tale itself shouldn't be that effecting. It is fairly standard Steinbeck territory - people moving through their world, not rich, trying to make their way. They encounter a vast cast of others also making their way. But, the Joad family become more than just characters as you see their ups and downs.
Anyone in their right mind feels the anger and injustice at how the Joads are treated and the things they come to have to do to just subsist. Steinbeck highlights this through social consciousness musing through and about his characters. As in many things, he is almost prophetic.
In our current world, the plight of other migrant communities and the welcome they receive springs to mind. As it should. This isn't meant to be a nice read - the message is one of pity and rage. Worthwhile for the ideas as much as the story.
"I cried at the end. One of the best written!"
It must have been Steinbeck who coined the phrase "What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger"
If you read only one book in your life, read this one.
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