Of John Steinbeck's many classic novels, only one is beloved by ninth graders everywhere. Finally in a definitive audiobook edition, The Pearl as read by Hector Elizondo is a long overdue treat for listeners of all ages. Whether you skipped this required reading in high school or simply don't remember much about it, now is the time to revisit Steinbeck's excellent little vision of an ancient Mexican folk tale about the perils of obsessive greed. A story of great symbolism and unflinching morality, the lessons here are no less true in our contemporary circumstances than they were hundreds of years ago.
Hector Elizondo is a perfect fit for this narration. Winner of an Emmy and an Obie, veteran of both screen and stage, Elizondo is no stranger to the gravitas of parables. Although he has contributed voice work to a dozen audiobook dramas with ensemble casts, this is the first time he has narrated a book completely on his own. What a treat to hear his familiar grizzled voice painting the scene of a tiny, impoverished town in need of a miracle. When a scorpion bites a young family man's infant son, the man becomes desperate for money to pay the doctor that can save the child's life.
Upon finding an enormous pearl deep in the water and just in the nick of time, the family begins to dream of their son's bright future. Elizondo puts his grit and gravel to good use conveying the tenacity with which the family clings to the idea of sending their son to school, thus escaping their meager life of poverty. But the enchanting music of the pearl speaks to the whole town, and soon all are clamoring for a piece of the family's good fortune. Hector Elizondo impeccably renders John Steinbeck's haunting admonition against avarice, and this short novel is a must-have for any audio library. Megan Volpert
In this short book illuminated by a deep understanding and love of humanity, John Steinbeck retells an old Mexican folk tale: the story of the great pearl, how it was found, and how it was lost. For the diver Kino, finding a magnificent pearl means the promise of a better life for his impoverished family. His dream blinds him to the greed and suspicions the pearl arouses in him and his neighbors, and even his loving wife cannot temper his obsession or stem the events leading to the tragedy.
For Steinbeck, Kino and his wife illustrate the fall from innocence of people who believe that wealth erases all problems. Originally published in 1947, The Pearl shows why Steinbeck’s style has made him one of the most beloved American writers: it is a simple story of simple people, recounted with the warmth and sincerity and unrivaled craftsmanship Steinbeck brings to his writing. It is tragedy in the great tradition, beautifully conveying not despair but hope for mankind.
©1945, 1973 Elaine Steinbeck, John Steinbeck IV, Thom Steinbeck (P)2011 Penguin Audio
In my top 5.
Comparable to "Of Mice and Men" in length... but faster, more intense, more gripping.
Perfect voice & narration for this story -- low and under-produced, yet mysterious, quick, and forceful... great complement to The Pearl.
I generally like to get a lot of audio hours for my credit... so I wasn't sure it'd be worth it to purchase a book that was 2 hours and change. I was wrong. Gripping book... listens much like a thriller. Classic Steinbeck. The same way "East of Eden" navigates the unspoken rhythms of brothers and fathers, "The Pearl" spotlights the same between husbands and wives... though in a more succinct, more frenetic manner. Riveting listen.
Eclectic tastes. Love anything thought provoking. Especially if its blended with some from of humour.
This book is so not about a favourite character. It is about needs and choices.
I have not heard Hector before. His reading here is perfect
Sure. Not a long book
Beautiful description of the characters and the dilemmas they face. So Steinbeck
My taste differs from kid books to gory horror books.
I am a fan of JS, but not of this book. I like JS style of writing and how he writes about the down trodden of society. In this story we have a couple who are so poor, they live in a straw hut, often go hungry and can't afford medicine for there child. In the beginning their child gets stung by a scorpion, but the doctor will not help, because they do not have money. The same day they find a pearl the size of a goose egg. It should be worth lots of money, but collecting the money is not that easy. The pearl brings them an unimaginable amount of bad luck. The story is extremely depressing and irritating. JS's message seems to be that if you are dirt poor, you should stay that way and not try to better yourself. If you have not read JS, I would suggest you start with Cannery Row.
Short, Simple, No Spoilers
After reading in the 80s and now again to help my daughter with her homework, I view this book differently. I appreciate Steinbeck's straightforward, succinct writing style using the man versus nature theme here and everywhere.
Kino and Juana search desperatly for a way to save their child and the pearl seems like a benevolent gift from nature. The townspeople, doctor, and traders become envious and attempt to cheat and/or steal from Kino as he seeks to obtain a fair price and better his family's situation.
Artfully written, "The Pearl" set the precedent for many stories and movie plots to follow (watch, "A Simple Plan" if you enjoyed this book). My current take sides with Kino's hope to improve his station in life and I don't believe he's greedy to do so. If you haven't read this classic, the ending is tragic and satisfying provoking you to question your and others' motives. Could listen to this one again and again and probably will.
Steinbeck's greatest achievement was to give voice to the poor. Steinbeck's critics could say he romanticized his subjects by making them all good souls who always had the high moral ground and earthy common sense, but so many of his subjects had been marginalized their whole lives that they were nearly invisible and so, I believe, deserving of a champion.
Yet many of Steinbeck's stories end badly for the main characters, they are almost always defeated by the forces they hoped to struggle free from. For a time each character in a Steinbeck has hope for the future only to succumb to the cold reality that the rich and the powerful will remain rich and powerful and the poor will remain poor and exploited.
Yet still he gave a voice to the poor and he showed his audience how difficult it was for the less fortunate to rise out of their situation, how desperate they could be to change their lives, and how terrible it was for them to fail. Steinbeck imparts on the reader a great empathy for his characters because it is vital for us to feel the pain of these people. This is why, I believe, Steinbeck's characters are almost always "good, honest people" because we believe ourselves to be people like his characters. And so when we see these characters struggle and fail we also struggle and fail and for a moment we empathize with these people.
Had Steinbeck's characters been more like Tolstoy's, full of faults and failings and hubris, he would have been less successful to get us to actually feel the pain of poverty and hopelessness because we would have had an excuse to blame the characters for their failings. Yet when the characters are a sketch, when we see only the good and watch how the bad washes over them, we understand, if only a little, the plight of people who cannot escape from their situations.
This was Steinbeck's greatest achievement: he got us to actually care about people we might otherwise never even notice. Steinbeck didn't need to create realistic characters like Tolstoy's because he knew his readers were full of faults and prejudices; his job was to get those very people to not be selfish for a few hundred pages and show them how our insensitivity to the less fortunate could be devastating.
This story, like almost all of Steinbeck's stories could easily be updated to our own times with very few changes. Replace the pearl of the world with a lottery ticket, move the setting to an inner city or desperate country, and the truths would still be the same: the poor will be taken advantage of by the powerful and any resistance on the part of the poor will be dealt harshly by the law, no matter the justification.
And so when we ask ourselves "Why did Steinbeck never offer any solution to these problems", then we should look in the mirror because he was actually asking us that question, he only gave us the tools to recognize there was even a problem to begin with.
To sad a story of what riches bring to simple people
and who think they have nothing
have everything to lose
From the time the work was published in 1947 until the present, this work never ceases to provide insight into the nature of greed, of jealousy, and of humankind's misplaced priority of the worship of anything that has monetary value. It still amazes me, after so many readings, how moved I am at the story's end, and yet, how mercurial the story's theme is taken. If only we could truly learn and change as a result of understanding Steinbeck's insights. . .what a better world this would be.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.