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Cannery Row [Paperback]

John Steinbeck
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)
RRP: £8.99
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Book Description

26 Jan 2012

'Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream.'

Meet the gamblers, whores, drunks, bums and artists of Cannery Row in Monterey, California, during the Great Depression. They want to throw a party for their friend Doc, so Mack and the boys set about, in their own inimitable way, recruiting everyone in the neighbourhood to the cause. But along the way they can't help but get involved in a little mischief and misadventure. It wouldn't be Cannery Row if it was otherwise, now would it?

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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; Re-issue edition (26 Jan 2012)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 024195245X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241952450
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 11.1 x 18.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,159,459 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Steinbeck is perhaps best known for Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath, which led to his Nobel Prize for Literature award in 1962. Born in Salinas, California in 1902, Steinbeck grew up in a fertile agricultural valley about twenty-five miles from the Pacific Coast: both valley and coast would serve as settings for some of his best fiction. In 1919 he went to Stanford University, where he intermittently enrolled in literature and writing courses until he left in 1925 without taking a degree. During the next five years he supported himself as a labourer and journalist in New York City, all the time working on his first novel, Cup of Gold (1929). After marriage and a move to Pacific Grove, he published two California books, The Pastures of Heaven (1932) and To a God Unknown (1933) and worked on short stories later collected in The Long Valley (1938).

Popular success and financial security came only with Tortilla Flat (1935), stories about Monterey's paisanos. A ceaseless experimenter throughout his career, Steinbeck changed courses regularly. Three powerful novels of the late 1930s focused on the California labouring class: In Dubious Battle (1936), Of Mice and Men (1937), and the book considered by many his finest, The Grapes of Wrath (1939).

Being partly based on his own experiences as a travelling worker, Steinbeck originally wanted Of Mice and Men to be titled 'Something That Happened'. The book explores themes of powerlessness, loneliness and empathy and received the greatest positive critical response of any of his works up to that point. It has achieved success as a novel, a Broadway play and three acclaimed films.

Steinbeck's compassionate depiction of the poor in The Grapes of Wrath helped the book become an immediate publishing phenomenon, discussed on a national scale and becoming an instant bestseller. The book was described by the Nobel Prize committee as a "great work" and stated that it was one of the main reasons for granting Steinbeck the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962.

Early in the 1940s, Steinbeck became a filmmaker with The Forgotten Village (1941) and a serious student of marine biology with Sea of Cortez (1941). He devoted his services to the war, writing Bombs Away (1942) and the controversial play-novelette The Moon is Down (1942). Cannery Row (1945), The Wayward Bus (1948), another experimental drama, Burning Bright (1950), and The Log from the Sea of Cortez (1951) preceded publication of the monumental East of Eden (1952)East of Eden (1952), an ambitious saga of the Salinas Valley and his own family's history.

The last decades of his life were spent in New York City and Sag Harbor with his third wife, with whom he traveled widely. Later books include: Sweet Thursday (1954)The Short Reign of Pippin IV: A Fabrication (1957), Once There was a War (1958), The Winter of Our Discontent (1961), Travels with Charley in Search of America (1962), America and Americans (1966) and the posthumously published Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters (1969),Viva Zapata! (1975,The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights (1976), and Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath (1989).

He died in 1968, having won a Nobel Prize in 1962.

Product Description


Uninhibited, bawdy, compassionate, inquisitive, deeply intelligent (Daily Telegraph)

Book Description

Packed with invention and joie de vivre CANNERY ROW is Steinbeck's high-spirited tribute to his native California. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An American Poem 19 Jan 2003
Although 'Cannery Row' is short compared to Steinbeck's better known novels, it is packed full of the powerful and delicate, beautiful and insightful writing which Steinbeck is the master of. There is no single story or plot binding the novella together, but the structure of the narrative is found in the many stories which Cannery Row has to tell us. Through clever and precise writing Steinbeck reveals to us characters both unique and universal, colourful and natural. There is happiness and sadness, a little tragedy, and a lot of hope - a picture is painted not just of American people before WW2, but of people who while shaped by their nationality, are not defined by it. Through all of 'Cannery Row' there is a sense that some sort of fundamental humanity will see to everything being okay in the end - Steinbeck comes across as being a great believer in the human spirit, pure and simple, stripped of all its pretentions and possessions, anxieties and angers, nationalities and politics. Steinbeck looks at the world and sees things we don't always see, and he writes honestly about evil when he sees it and unsentimentally about good when he sees that. 'Cannery Row' is the sort of book which makes you look at things a little differently, and leaves you with a peaceful smile on your face when you put it down at the end.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, funny, warm and inciteful 18 July 2006
On appearances this book appears surprisingly small. Once opened though every sentence grabs you. Steinbeck describes scenes and characters so vividly, with such unusual imagery, that even after finishing the book I find myself still recalling parts of it,even reciting parts of the book back to myself just to remember how beautifully phrased the words were. Sad, perhaps, but then you don't know until you read it yourself.There is no plot particularly. There seems no aim, just day to day life in a small community (I won't say Amercian community because these characters could be from any country). I was sorry to finish it and like many of the other reviewers, I will definately read more Steinbeck.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 12 Mar 2011
Cannery Row is a short book written by Steinbeck as a tribute to his upbringing in California. It is an excellent read full of humour and drama.

The characters in Cannery Row are, without exception, societies outcasts: Drunkards, thieves, prostitutes, gamblers and down-on-their-luck businessmen. From reading this you would be forgiven for thinking this story would be bleak or perhaps unpleasant. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It's refreshing to read about characters who genuinely love life. There isn't a whole lot of brooding or introverted thoughts just a small group with tenuous links in common getting on with their lives and co-existing. There is a subtle thread of mutal love and friendship in among the grime of their existence.

I found the book uplifting and fun to read. There is tragedy and sadness but also great and simple joys and an honest way of living which has perhaps been lost these days. I don't envy any of their hard lives but in the midst of their poverty, crime and immoral behaviour alot of joy and decency can be found.

On top of all this I love the front cover of this addition. A very powerful book but also great fun.
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41 of 44 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
John Steinbeck was (and still is, although he's dead) one of the most respected and revered writers to come out of America and, if you read this book, you'll see why. Set in a tiny comunity attached to the tuna canneries near Monterey in California during the Great Depression of the 1930s, the reader is introduced to a magical world where friendship and camaraderie fill empty bellies. Mack and the boys, Lee Chong and Doc are the central characters, around which Steinbeck has built a literary cathedral of 'belly-laughter' humour, pathos and subtle wit. This was the first of Steinbeck's books which I read and I found it to be the perfect introduction to his others. I challenge anyone with a soul to read this work of pure brilliance and not want to be there, be part of the story. If you can read this book without laughing out loud, go and see your doctor, because there's something wrong with you. After reading Cannery Row, read Sweet Thursday and Tortilla Flat, then you're ready for The Grapes of Wrath.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Cannery Row is the fourth Steinbeck novel I've read in succession, and for me it stands out as the finest; quite simply I've never been more captivated by a fictional place, or its characters, than I have been whilst reading this novel.

Cannery Row centres on life upon a small strip of largely dilapidated land situated next to a sardine cannery in Monterey Bay. It's the 1930s, the time of the Great Depression, and the story follows the daily interactions between the mainly down-trodden residents. These residents (all of whom symbolically represent various class structures in society) are primarily comprised of: Lee Chong, the Chinese grocer, Mac and 'the boys' who reside in a `refurbished' storage hut loving christened the Palace Flop-house, Doc who runs the marine laboratory, and Dora, the owner of the Bear Flag restaurant, which in actuality is a house of ill-repute.

Given Mr. Steinbeck's incredible talent for creating remarkable characters, and settings (something which I've discovered in ALL of the his books that I've read), I'm not surprised I'm so enamoured with Cannery Row, there's just something so magical about each and every one of them. This is the first novel I've finished where the characters, and the place, have carried on living in my head; out of nowhere I suddenly begin wondering how Doc's getting on in his laboratory, or whether Mac and the boys have managed to get up on their luck, if Mr. Chong is still in his sentinel position in his shop, behind the cigar counter, or if Dora's place is busy or not.

I have to say though, that I found no real story behind Cannery Row. As I found with other Steinbeck novels, the onus of the story is all about the characters and how they interact with one another, rather than any hugely engaging plot.
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