source – personal copy

John Steinbeck was probably on of Americas greatest writers in the middle period of the twentieth century ,his books caught the character of America in the depression .He won the Nobel prize for literature in 1962 .He is a name that makes many people jump after being made to read of mice and men at school ,but would ask people to give him another try this very short novella is a perfect book to get yourself reaquainted with him or discover him .

The book is set in a small Mexican fishing village and follows a poor Mexican fisherman Kino   .He finds a huge wonderous Pearl .

And the beauty of the pearl ,winking and glimmering in the little candle ,cozened his brain with its beauty .So lovely it was ,so soft ,and its own music came from it -its music of promise and delight guarantee of the future ,of comfort ,of security .

Kino looking at the pearl .

The pearl has his fortune in it but as it turns out his downfall as well ,at the same time .the book was a retelling of a Mexican folk tale ,Kino his wife Junna and son Coyotito are all effect by the finding of the pearl .The book has a moral theme running through it that is we should be happy who we are and that greed and wealth ,which is what the pearl represents isn’t all it is meant to be .The story remind me of a quote from a Basil Rasthbone Sherlock Holmes film the pearl of death about a famous pearl the bourgeis pearl he said for its beauty it is cover in the blood of many a man and should really be thrown back in the sea .That is what Kino should have done but instead he Kept the pearl got greedy want more and more money for it and eventually when his wife decided the pearl was too much of burden it led to a shocking  conclusion .The book is very short ninety pages long and can easily be read in an evening .The book shows Steinbeck powers of writing taking a simple folk tale and expanding it to a full novella .

Have you a favourite Steinbeck ?

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. The Book Whisperer
    Dec 21, 2010 @ 13:56:59

    I have only ever read Of Mice and Men, Stu, and I LOVED it! I don’t know why I haven’t read any more of his yet. I do have a copy of this at home and your review has made me think I should pick it up sooner rather than later. Thanks for the review, Stu.


  2. Lynne
    Dec 21, 2010 @ 15:29:11

    So glad to see Steinbeck’s name! Although his fiction is an essential tool to understanding part of the American character in the 20th century, especially the West, it’s a nonfiction work of his that’s my favorite.

    Travels with Charley is the story of his journey as an old man undertaking one last journey across his country. Whether it’s outfitting his camper, tending to the needs of his poodle Charley or the vignettes of the people he met, this book captures my heart.

    It’s the scenes of despair and hatred that hold the most power. When Steinbeck writes about the worst in people, it somehow brings to mind how people could and would do better. I also hear Steinbeck’s deep, slow voice in this book.


    • winstonsdad
      Dec 21, 2010 @ 17:44:25

      I ve travels with Charley on pile books for next year looking forward to it ,he was wonderful at describing characters on the edges of society ,all the best stu


  3. amymckie
    Dec 21, 2010 @ 19:57:21

    Great review Stu. This definitely might be an easier introduction for those of us (i.e. me!) scared of his longer works!


  4. Rob
    Dec 23, 2010 @ 09:16:57

    Hi Stu,
    Great review but with the greatest respect I have to disagree with you somewhat on proclaiming ‘The Pearl’ to be ‘a perfect book to get yourself reaquainted with [Steinbeck] or discover him’. As you rightly state The Pearl is based on an old Mexican folk tale, and as a consequence Steinbeck has to work within certain confines, right from the outset. It shows, because in my mind ‘The Pearl’ is so schematic, and his characters so simplistic, that it does little show what an incredible writer Steinbeck is (many of his admirers thought the same. Warren French – one of Steinbeck’s most positive critics – declared The Pearl to be ‘ artistically inferior to most of Steinbeck’s previous works’. I agree with him!).

    No, for me the best SHORT novel that shows Steinbeck in his best light is and always will be, ‘Of Mice and Men’. The plot may be as equally simplistic but it’s the powerfulness of his characters that propels this literary creation to the top of the tree.

    And if the reader needs an even shorter but no less powerful introduction then I think his short story ‘The Chrysanthemums’, is ideal. The empowerment he embeds in Elisa Allen – the primary character in the story – is breathtakingly sublime. Anyone wishing to read ‘The Chrysanthemums’ can so here:

    Of course to see Steinbeck at his finest one really has to read his longer works, and we certainly both agree on this one, Stu – ‘Cannery Row’ is sensational (the follow-up ‘Sweet Thursday’ less so – mainly because Lee Chong no longer features in it :)). But to that ‘must read’ list I would definitely also add ‘Tortilla Flat’, and perhaps his most revered literary creation, ‘Grapes of Wrath’.

    Sorry to go on Stu, you can blame my passion for Steinbeck for rambling on.
    Warmest regards


    • winstonsdad
      Dec 23, 2010 @ 11:44:42

      can we agree to disagree I think lack of style and simple ideas make pearl a perfect stepping stone back to Steinbeck for people that were put off by mice and men as a child at school ,looking forward to finding more common ground on traveels with charley which is steinbeck at his best ,all the best stu


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December 2010


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