Before there was Eric Schlosser, Michael Pollan, or Morgan Spurlock, there was Upton Sinclair. Sinclair's classic novel - an exposé of the Chicago meatpacking industry at the at the turn of the twentieth century - achieves new life as an audiobook. Narrator George Guidall's passionate rendering of the text makes it possible to visualize the vicious and grotesque conditions inside the slaughterhouses, and the impoverished immigrants who worked there, in a way that reading the text alone might not convey.
Few books have so affected radical social changes as The Jungle, first published serially in 1906. Exposing unsanitary conditions in the meat-packing industry in Chicago, Sinclair's novel gripped Americans by the stomach, contributing to the passage of the first Food and Drug Act. If you've never read this classic novel, don't be put off by its gruesome reputation. Upton Sinclair was a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist who could turn even an exposé into a tender and moving novel.
Jurgis Rudkus, a Lithuanian immigrant, comes to America in search of a fortune for his family. He accepts the harsh realities of a working man's lot, laboring with naive vigor - until, his health and family sacrificed, he understands how the heavy wheels of the industrial machine can crush the strongest spirit.
Public Domain (P)1994 Recorded Books, LLC
Classic book. Sometimes a novel can have a truth that no work of history can have. This book influenced the creation of the modern FDA. It is based on real conditions at the time. It is scary and this is an important book to read. I don't think you should be reading Ayn Rand without getting this as balance. Narration was good. Didn't like having to stop listening.
I know it's not actually titled "An American Tragedy" (that's another classic), but this book really details a tragic life in tragic circumstances. In fact, I found it so painfully dismal, I had to stop half way through to listen to another book before coming back to it because it was so intense. Don't let that stop you, though, because it's a book well worth listening too.
It's best known as a muckraking book about the appalling conditions of the Chicago meatpacking plants at the turn of the 20th century, and almost all of the descriptions in the book were found to be true - and two important pieces of food safety legislation were enacted because of it. In fact, Upton Sinclair spent almost 2 months "undercover" working in the meatpacking plants before writing this book - which was originally published in installments.
What struck me more, though, was the horrific situation of the workers, not just in the meatpacking plants themselves, but also their housing and social situations. How new immigrants had been targeted in Europe and encouraged to come to work in the Chicago plants, lured with promises of a land of plenty -- only to find a different reality when they arrived unskilled, unable to speak English, and unprepared for the scam artists of an unregulated marketplace. Wickedly dangerous workplace conditions (resulting in gangrenous wounds, chemical burns, and respiratory failure), ridiculously crowded living conditions (sharing a mattress to sleep in shifts at the boarding house), and high district unemployment that resulted in men begging for work each morning and low wages.
Upton Sinclair, with his clearly socialist leanings in this book, says he aimed for the heart of his reader (with these depictions of unfairly harsh circumstances), but hit the readers' stomachs instead (with depiction of the meatpacking situations). I see that what he means, but truly it was my heart, not my stomach, that was hit by this book.
However, there are no heroes in this book - the hardworking, striving family man who is the protagonist becomes a vandal, mugger, thief, and corrupt political worker who abandoned his extended family after a tragic loss. The employers are corrupt, the unions are corrupt, the police force is corrupt........the only thing left to root for is the Dream itself (or Socialism, if you believe in Sinclair's premise). The book did inspire me to do a little more research and learn a bit more about Chicago at the time - about the Beef Trust, the Chicago freight tunnels, and the scandals, investigations, and legislation that came about because of the horrific practices of those meatpacking plants.
I found both to be very good. The audio more convenient when unable read the print
How he described the conditions in the meat industry and how the immigrants struggled
The buying of the home, i got a bad feeling about it was lulled into thinking it would be OK then realized it was a con.
I couldn't put it down and was able to read or listen to it through out the day listening on my phone, while doing housework, in the car etc.
Though it is over 100 years since this book was first published so many of the issues are still relevant. With the current news about horse meat being found in processed meat products and the obesity crisis it makes you wonder about the food production industries and the working conditions for low income workers today.
The Jungle rates very high on my list of audio books that I have listened to.
All of the characters were well done.
George Guidall performed well.
Many points were moving due to the era and content of the story that illuminated persistent toil and struggle for those who were virtually invisible within society.
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