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To a God Unknown [Hardcover]

John Steinbeck
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Book Description

24 May 1990 074930331X 978-0749303310 New edition
A man tries to cultivate a life from the harsh wilderness of a remote valley. He realises too late the power of nature and the futility of man's vanity.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 35 pages
  • Publisher: Mandarin; New edition edition (24 May 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 074930331X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0749303310
  • Product Dimensions: 17.2 x 11 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 601,594 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

About the Author

Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck is remembered as one of the greatest and best-loved American writers of the twentieth century. His complete works will be available in Penguin Modern Classics. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Steinbeck's best work 22 Nov 2002
I have read practically everything by Steinbeck, and this is my favourite.
The story of the brothers who move from the security of New England to the wild west, compares the organised and sanitised religion of the east, with the pagan and traditional religions of the natural world.
As is usual with Steinbeck, there is no conclusion as to which religion is better, morally superior etc. The reader is left to make up there own mind - and if you are left wondering, then I guess that Steinbeck must have done a good job !
This is one of the author's early novels, and once you have read it, you will think about all of the others in a different light.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Slightly laboured early effort... 31 Dec 2012
Having read most of Steinbeck's stuff, I have to say I didn't think this comparatively early work was anywhere near his best.

Most of the characters are two-dimensional and seem to symbolise ideas or attitudes of one kind or another, rather than being the subtle and contradictory human beings of his later works. I include the central character in this statement and have to say I found him oddly distant and unsympathetic throughout. Also a lot of the dialogue is irritatingly portentous and contrived (especially in the courtship passages) - in contrast to the terse naturalism of speech in many of his works. Not very much action, either, and some of the plot lines are not resolved in any kind of satisfactory way. Finally, the central theme here is paganism and nature-worship and the presentation of this becomes rather silly and far-fetched at times, and increasingly dominates towards the end.

I think what Steinbeck has attempted in this book he did much more successfully in East of Eden a few years on. Still four stars because I did enjoy it and would give nothing less to the greatest of American writers. I think he was still perfecting his art with this one, though.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking 6 Feb 2001
By A Customer
This is a very dark and thought provoking novel. Four very different brothers take their families and move to farm very lush land, which has a history of droubt. When the dry times come and the land and cattle begin to perish, the family falls apart. Very deep and often quite creepy, this is not a book to read when you need cheering up as there is much death and despare involved. It is compelling reading and, as always, the charactors are brilliantly depicted. Not recomended for vegetarians!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars John at his best 20 Jan 2013
I have read a lot of Steinbeck recently, and, although all his works are beautifully written, the language in To A God Unknown is just gorgeous. It is his most poetic work, with the characters themselves partaking in the language, and the visual description is awesome. Obviously, it's a great story line and characters, but the language really sets it apart.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To A God Unknown 17 Jun 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
`To A God Unknown' is the tale of a ranching family in California and how they try to survive in good years and bad on the ranch. The head of the family starts to worship an oak tree on his land that embodies the spirit of his dead father and develops a deep connectedness to the land and nature, much to the chagrin of his Christian brother. This has themes of the rhythms of nature, as well as pagan superstition and the internal struggles of one man as he struggles with traditional religion and his feelings of the purity of nature. Having read much Steinbeck before I was eager to start this book and soak myself in his beautiful prose and whilst that still held true, I did find this slightly hard to get into initially; you could tell this was one of his early books and he was finding his voice. After about thirty pages though I was enthralled and revelled in his writing until the resonant and moving conclusion. Steinbeck has the ability to reach to your very core and make you feel the passions, sadnesses and tribulations of the characters along with them and whilst in less experienced hands you may have trouble believing in and engaging with some of the ideas presented here, with Steinbecks deft touch you not only believe them but you also live and breathe them. This is a worthy addition to your Steinbeck collection and as I have stated on other reviews for his work, I have yet to read a bad Steinbeck book and this is truly no exception. This has a depth and power that will stay with you long after you have finished reading.

Feel free to check out my blog which can be found on my profile page.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic Steinbeck 21 Dec 2011
This is pure Steinbeck, full of beauty and also darkness. To me the message was more about superstition and ritual rather than what many would consider religion. Joseph creats his Eden and then labours to keep everything on track despite the looming spectre of the "dry years". You realise that deep in his heart there is always the belief that he will lose everything, emphasised by the almost casual acceptance of his wifes death. The book evokes to me one of Wordsworths most memorable lines "From the heights of our exultations in our dejections do we sink so low". Do we enjoy the good times for what they are or, to the expense of our enjoyment, do we worry that they will finish and do everything that we can to ensure that they remain?
It is understandable that this book took more time to write than his longer novels. The messages in this book can be read in so many ways. You are left with the impression that as Steinbeck writes and the story develops then the web of possibilities and questions magnify.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars books
pleased with the item
Published 2 months ago by Mr. K. M. Harrison
4.0 out of 5 stars Book
I have most of John Steinbeck's books now and this one just added to my collection. Unfortunately I didn't find it as good as his most popular ones, but wasn't too disappointed as... Read more
Published 5 months ago by The Reviewer
5.0 out of 5 stars Spectacular
This is my absolute favourite Steinbeck book. It is haunting and beautifully written. I highly recommend reading this, whether you are a Steinbeck fan or not.
Published 6 months ago by Emily
4.0 out of 5 stars short stories
A story about man v nature and the use of metaphors runs through this.So much of the story describes nature in all it's glory and I feel it's about man trying to tame the... Read more
Published 9 months ago by escorial
3.0 out of 5 stars present
this was a christmas present for one of the family and i have not reqad it myself although he says its good, if your in to his stuff it was quick delivery and well priced
Published 18 months ago by rich
4.0 out of 5 stars Flowery Steinbeck.....
The book is a beautifully descriptive story of a family settled in California (like most of his novels). Read more
Published on 25 July 2011 by Kitaj
3.0 out of 5 stars A highwayscribery Book Report
Purple and brown, dusty wine shot through with wheat-colored sun.

John Steinbeck's, "To a God Unknown," is both love letter and a Dear John to his native Northern... Read more
Published on 18 Dec 2010 by Stephen Siciliano
5.0 out of 5 stars 'I am the rain'
I've been a fan of Steinbeck for a long time, since GCSE Of Mice and Men really. But this book took me totally by surprise given how soft and comfortable reading Steinbeck can be. Read more
Published on 23 May 2010 by Mr. D. Drabble
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