I was seriously contemplating 5 stars for this book, but then as I got toward the end of it I was reminded how tough a book this can be to read at times. I don't mean it's full of difficult long words, or that the paragraph structure is such that the reader becomes dazed and confused. What I mean is that the subject matter can really grind you down, but that is what makes the book so impressive.
The Grapes of Wrath follows a migrant farm working family from the 1930's who, during the great depression, are forced to leave their home and their livelihood to seek a future in California. This in essence is the thread of the story but what the Grapes of Wrath does is it branches off to give a number of sub-stories which really give the reader a sense of what life was like for these migrant workers.
The book in interspliced with a number social commentaries on this time, which show how badly these people were thought of, and also shows how normal "god fearing" people can turn on their own people, scared that these outsiders will ruin their way of life. These moments though do not constitute the whole book and there are a variety of other stories (purely fictional) around the family and how they bond together, yet break apart as the journey slowly wears them down.
The greatness of the book is the timelessness of it. Steinbeck shows how people will turn on each other with the right provocation. In Grapes of Wrath it's the wealthy Californians, we can see this mimicked to a point in peoples attitudes to modern day asylum seekers. People fear what they don't understand and what they are scared of they attack.
A brilliantly written book but really does need perseverance.