The Pulitzer Prize-winning epic of the Great Depression, a book that galvanized—and sometimes outraged—millions of readers.
At once naturalistic epic, captivity narrative, road novel, and transcendental gospel, Steinbeck's, The Grapes of Wrath is perhaps the most American of American classics. Although it follows the movement of thousands of men and women and the transformation of an entire nation during the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s, The Grapes of Wrath is also the story of one Oklahoma farm family, the Joads, who are driven off their homestead and forced to travel west to the promised land of California. From their trials and their repeated collisions against the hard realities of this new America, Steinbeck creates a drama that is intensely human yet majestic in its scale and moral vision, tragic but ultimately stirring in its insistence on human dignity.
©1939 John Steinbeck (P)2011 Penguin
The narrator did a great job, the story is obviously a classic, but for some reason they play a harmonica at random parts of the story that is twice as loud as the voice. It is extremely off-putting and I will not buy another book from this publisher because of it.
I felt cheated out the finding out what happened to those poor people after investing so much time learning about them! Disappointed that the didn't find happiness that they sought so desperately!
My interests run to psychology, popular science, history, world literature, and occasionally something fun like Jasper Fforde. It seems like the only free time I have for reading these days is when I'm in the car so I am extremely grateful for audio books. I started off reading just the contemporary stuff that I was determined not to clutter up my already stuffed bookcases with. And now audio is probably 90% of my "reading" matter.
I really enjoyed the interspersed vignettes Steinbeck uses to create a more generalized view of the events he writes about. They allow him a way to compress massive amounts of experience into a short passage in a way that would be impossible if he focused only on the Joads. I wish he had continued that practice more in the second half of the book. But then, Steinbeck tends to be an uneven writer in his longer works. By the second half he is so engrossed in the story of the Joads that his literary pretensions seem to be forgotten. Mostly.
It's hard not to sympathize with the Okies. And yet on sober reflection, they need to own a part of the blame for their situation. It's all well and good to complain about the bankers and the salesmen and so forth, but it would be nice to give a more balanced view of the other side of the story. I suppose that would have watered down the emotional impact of the story. And besides, I believe Steinbeck's sympathies lay entirely with the downtrodden.
It is interesting to compare the situation of the Okies entering California with the refugee migrations of our own times. Clearly, race, ethnicity, and nationality have little to do with the feelings of the incumbent population. It sure does seem as though the government or the relief societies could have done a better job of addressing the problem. Perhaps I should cut them some slack for having to also deal with the Depression themselves.
One thing I found continually puzzling was currency conversions. It's become fairly commonplace to think that prices in those days were incredibly cheap. Hearing that a car could be purchased for $50 just sounds so ludicrous to us today. Eventually I found that if I multiplied all the prices by 25, they sounded about right in inflation-adjusted terms. And then it felt more like comparing apples to apples.
It was interesting to see how the younger generation caught on to automobile driving and maintenance compared with the older generation. Automobiles were like the smart phones of their time, I guess.
By far the most annoying thing about this production was the harmonica. Some production engineer evidently thought it would add period atmosphere to punch in a short bit of harmonica playing between chapters. OK, the harmonica player is very good and he is inventive, and I'm sure his riffs are authentic for the time. BUT, it just completely wrecks the mood Steinbeck has so carefully prepared every time the harmonica player jumps in.
The narrator does a fair Henry Fonda impression. I suppose many people would consider that a plus. Personally, Fonda was never my idea of Tom Joad. I would have preferred an attempt to create the character fresh based just on Steinbeck's words. However, that is a minor point, and probably just a matter of taste.
This was a truly eye-opening book about the dust bowl and the great migration to California and all that immigrants had to endure and try to survive. It was heart-breaking and yet uplifting at the same time. The narrator did an excellent job.
An amazing performance of one of the great American novels unfortunately marred by the choice of the boneheaded director to insert obscenely loud harmonica riffs between each and every chapter. I listen at bedtime every night, and can't count how many times I was jarred me from a deep slumber. Bonehead.
Dylan Baker does a remarkable job of portraying each of Steinbeck's characters. In listening to this audiobook, you become immersed in the conversations, the culture and history framed in this story. Great book.
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