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
Eclectic mixer of books of my youth and ones I always meant to read, but didn't.
It was worth hauling out the old Hudson one more time to take the trip with the Joads from Oklahoma to California. It must be 20 years since I read this great novel and, twenty years more experience makes this all the better to read. The underlying sexual tension which totally escaped me as a 19 year old is now so confronting that it's hard to imagine the manuscript getting past the censors in America at the time of its release (1939).
Of course most readers will know the story of the drought, the land buy-up by the banks and developers and the dpression fuelled exodus that propelled the Joads in search of a new place of their own, a new America, if you like. Many will recall the many set-backs that befall the family; death, desertion and humilation, to mention some. And many will think, this is just too depressing to read again.
When I heard John Chancer begin on the narrative, I knew it would be a new journey down an old road. Route 66 (called Highway 66 in the text) came alive for me. I listened to the Booby Troup lyrics again as the narrative played out. The words of the book could almost have been borrowed for the popular, much covered song. I was listening to the Nat King Cole version (1946), but the Stones version (and others) would do just as well. The hope of that song is somewhere in the dispair of the family. The despair and the fight and the dogged self-will fight for social justice that are captured in Chapter 27's famous closing words and in the Bruce Springstein reprise (also playing whilst I listen) of "The Ghost of Tom Joad" (1995).
I also heard a Gospel refrain (especially in Chancer's wonderful reading of Chapter 11) and the Steinbeck socialism theme jumped out in Chapter 14 ("I" versus "we") and hits you like it hit young Tom in Chapter 27. Then I remember that this was written after "In Dubious Battle" (1936) and that the author is not so naive as young Tom is about the labour movement, but you wouldn't know that in the reading. And then there is Chapter 25, read so movingly, that gives the book its name and does so effectively explain how the seeds are sown. And then we forget.
I could barely have wished for a better trip back to California. I hope I don't forget the Route in the years ahead.
I liked the way the story about the Joads was intertwined with a more general persective of the situation in the region at the time. And I really got caught in the story. I also feel that some of the things that were true then, are still true now, and that lessons can be drawn from the crisis in the 1930's to our current crisis.
I have just read a Dutch book from Geert Mak, called Reizen zonder John, about the travels of John Steinbeck in the latter part of his life.
Keeping up with the Joads
Successfully against the odds I learnt life's path, rules and history by osmosis due to a modest yet real reading barrier. Now I can embrace history, classics and pulp with the spoken word. Thanks Audible
Top ten as it made me rethink the future of our capital system
The fact that the 1930's are being revisited and the same issues prevail
religious ignorance, the xenophobic fear of immigrants, irrational fears about social groups, muddle headed self interested economic decisions, abuse by those in power and the struggling humanity and love shown by the down-trodden who die to survive the above.
Ma's character builds through the book to become the one who holds the family unit together and must deal with all the demons and family differences.
The story of a family forced from their life as tenant farmers into the uncertainty of life chasing work in far off California is heartbreaking - no wonder it was banned - it showed the "lucky country" as one of destitution for the many and luxury for the few.
"A audiobook masterpiece"
The quality of the book and narration make this one of the best audio books I have heard in some time, it is a shining example of how good narration enhances even the finest work,I would certainly recommend this classic of American literature.
"Best Novel ever written"
What a wonderful listen. Read this book in the 60's and it was so powerful then, that I read every other Steinbeck novel. When I saw it on Audible I thought I would listen again. John Steinbecks descriptions are so good you can see the country, see the people and understand exactly what they went through. The reader brings it to life.
This has got to be the best novel ever written.
"A book with a great voice"
So I'd recently started reading 'The Grapes Of Wrath', but found that by the time I finally sat down to read it was always late at night, and I was too tired to concentrate on reading a physical book. I thought maybe being read to would be the answer, unfortunately none of my flatmates were willing so I thought I'd try audible.
The voice of John Chancer is perfect for this book. For those of you new to audiobooks and unsure what to expect(as I was), John Chancer reads the book very clearly and with expression, and when it comes to dialogue he alters his voice for the different characters, so for long conversations you can always be sure who is talking. Yet another advantage I found is that for the dialogue Steinbeck writes matches the dialect and accents of the characters, for example he writes ' 'Look, I been scourin' aroun' for three weeks all over hell, an' I ain't'...', and the narrator reads this out exactly to mimic the dialect and accents.
As for the book itself, I was surprised at how relevant it still was, and the messages Steinbeck gets across are truly profound. The characters are well developed, and unbelievably human.
I'm convinced any reader will grow to love the Joad family, and listening to their adventure will become a great part of your day!
"A simply wonderful experience."
I found this audiobook stunningly good. Having read the book several times 'in print', I was reticent about having someone else narrate what to me is a special story. My trepidation was unfounded and this version I found to be both deeply moving and utterly gripping. Anyone who has read 'Of Mice and Men' and been gripped by Steinbeck's sharp characterisation and concise description will find this masterpiece rewarding and very possibly 'unputdownable'!
This is an incredible book, do I really need to say anything, it The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck! I couldn't understand how good it was until I read it. Read it, read it, read it!!!
One of the best novels I've ever read and also one of my favourites. This is a masterful reading. Whether you know the work already or would like to, I think this audiobook is just superb.
"The Grapes of Wrath"
Well narrated version of the classic Steinbeck novel. Good adaptation of accents and characters. Recommended.
"Definitely worth a listen"
I came into The Grapes of Wrath completely blind knowing only that it was hailed as a great book but not really expecting much and I was pleasantly surprised, from the start the characters are involved and engaging, John Chancer’s narration is spot on giving each character a unique voice and feeling.
The last chapter alone is worth the cost of the audiobook as I have never before been confronted with such a mix of emotions upon finishing a novel, six months later and I’m still not sure what it makes me feel, definitely one to get you out of your comfort zone.
"Did you read Of Mice and Men at school?"
If you did and you enjoyed it, this novel is Of Mice and Men to the power 10!
Firstly, the story of a family struggling through the Great Depression in 1930's America is epic, dark, political, and emotional. The kind of story I love.
Secondly, the narration. Personally, I like audio books that occupy a good month's worth of driving back and forth from work. In which case, the narrator better be doing a good job or that's a month of annoying driving or me thinking I've wasted my money. John Chancer? His narration is wonderful. The kind that seems to enhance the listening experience to the point where you wonder why you would ever read a book yourself!
Overall? Highly recommended.
"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.
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