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The Pastures Of Heaven [Paperback]

John Steinbeck
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Corgi (1957)
  • ASIN: B002N9S954
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Pastures of Heaven 27 Mar 2010
By Spider Monkey HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
`The Pastures of Heaven' is the second book of Steinbeck's to be published and rather than being a straight forward novel, this is more a collection of short stories that feature the same characters throughout. I have read numerous Steinbeck books and have yet to be disappointed and this one is no exception. You get his beautiful descriptions, unique characterisations and short self contained stories that explore a range of human emotions. These stories are set within a California valley, near Salinas, where many of his other books are also set. Of all Steinbeck's books, this one made me feel the saddest as I read it. Each story has beauty, warmth and wonderful writing and yet they all seem to end on a sad or poignant note. I guess this is analogous to life, where we have moments of joy and happiness tempered by moments of sadness and disappointment. This book also has an introduction written by James Nagal which explores some of the themes of the book, as well as explanatory notes at the end that clarify certain phrases used throughout the book. If you are new to Steinbeck then I suggest you start with another of his books first (`Grapes of Wrath' or `Of Mice and Men' are excellent starting places) but you will want to visit this book at some point down the line and you will not be disappointed once you do. Steinbeck is a truly masterful writer and this book only cements that opinion.

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Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I've been on a Steinbeck kick recently and was excited to read "Cup of Gold", his début novel, which I found pretty disappointing on a number of levels. This, though, has a claim to be considered Steinbeck's 'real' début, in that if you're familiar with his later novels, The Pastures of Heaven is very much what you'd expect Steinbeck's first book to be like.

This was the second Steinbeck book to be published, and in a way we have it to thank for the rest of his career - Pascal Covici was given a copy of this, stayed up all night reading it, and was so impressed he promptly went out and signed Steinbeck to the publishing deal that resulted in Tortilla Flat the following year.

It's easy to see why Covici was so impressed. This isn't quite a novel and isn't quite a collection of short stories, but it's packed with memorable characters and shocking moments (and some melodrama), as well as several themes you can see Steinbeck would return to and develop in his later works. It's not exactly laugh-a-minute stuff and yet I don't find it depressing as other reviewers have commented either - it's unforgettable, for sure, but you come away thoughtful rather than miserable. And it's Steinbeck, so there's quiet observational humour and candour right the way through; some of the stories and characters here have quickly become my favourite Steinbeck vignettes, and the little epilogue with the tour bus is pretty much perfect.

This would make a perfect introduction to Steinbeck if it weren't for the fact that Of Mice And Men and The Grapes of Wrath already provide an even better one. What this is is a superb book that contains almost everything that's good about the later Steinbeck in kernel form, and - as Covici found - it's very hard to put it down.
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3.0 out of 5 stars An early work, and not his best 17 Feb 2014
Format:Paperback
Steinbeck wrote this loosely- connected collection of short stories in his late twenties, near the beginning of his writing career; he'd had his first novel published the previous year. Named after a real valley in north California, these fairly ordinary stories were based on the idea of the dull and dated "Winesburg, Ohio" that set stories in the same place. All are tragedies and the first five involve families with children who are retarded or afflicted in some way. The best story - about a schoolteacher afraid that her past may catch up with her - is slightly different from the rest which all have the theme of difficulties endured despite an idyllic setting, but nothing here suggests the power and lyricism of the novels that later made him famous.

Read the novels first and save this for later only if you feel the need to read everything Steinbeck wrote. It probably wouldn't still be in print if it wasn't for his later works.
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