Beautifully descriptive...enabling the sea, the mountains, the characters and community to become real. Kino, Juana and their baby Coyotito live a simple but content life which is interpreted through the 'The Song of the Family' which evokes Kino's feelings when he feels warm and happy :)
A short and simple story which unsurprisingly (because it's Steinbeck) holds a deep understanding of people and communities. The people in the village form their beliefs on experience which they translate into either being (or not being) God's will. They believe every person has a 'station' which they mustn't get above, and each person is meant to 'guard' their part of the universe...the role God meant for them. By believing this they effectively limit their own lives and dreams and yet...because their lives are generally hardworking yet happy, is this such a bad thing?
The authority figures in the story (the doctor and the priest) are powerful in their knowledge and the villagers (although Kino is suspicious) have to believe and trust them. I found Kino's thoughts on page 15 quite poignant,
"He was trapped as his people would always be trapped, and would be, until they could be sure that the things in the books were really in the books."
This increases the irony that the message (the knowledge!) of this tale is being passed on through a book.
As usual with Steinbeck, an uncomfortable ending, yet the right ending somehow.
This very short novella, - approximately 80 pages, will sit way down on the list of Steinbeck’s best works. It also has an 18 page intro ’which rather unbelievably spills the beans on the book’s plot, and so you are almost waiting for the inevitable to happen – now how stupid and infuriating is that?
The story itself is fine with loads of potential and ‘JS’ revels in his love for all things ‘countryside’ as usual. The book lacks some of the writer’s usual wit but as others have stated it travels a rather different and moralistic path.
I found the ending a bit hard to believe which was another slight disappointment for me.
This book can be read in just a few hours or so, it therefore has little substance and suffers due to that – it needed to be another 50 - 70 pages in my humble opinion, which would have enabled a few more twists & turns. The Likes of Mice & Men & The Great Gatsby were only about 150 pages but considered classics - In every respect this read is well short of those.
Because of the aforementioned minor disappointments this book left me a little flat & unsatisfied.
on 18 October 2013
First published in 1947, this novel for younger readers tells the story of Kino, a Mexican pearl fisherman, who one day discovers a pearl so large that is it dubbed `the Pearl of the World'. For Kino and his wife Juana the pearl initially seems to offer a way out of poverty and an escape from the marginal status they occupy, clearly rendered by Steinbeck. But in Steinbeck's hands the pearl is not just a jewel, it is a seed from which evil springs - what was initially perceived as a source of fortune becomes the source of Kino and his family's misfortune.
The story is in effect a parable, told in a plain and direct (and sometimes understated) way and using language that sometimes has a biblical lilt. It has its villains, all the more menacing because they are never clearly seen, and leads to a suspenseful climax. This is a piece of literature rather than simply a kid's book, well told, well written and with a moral heart. I would recommend it for children of 11 and over
on 28 February 2011
I won't precis the story, as other reviewers have already done so. In a nutshell, Steinbeck's The Pearl is a parable for modern times. It is a novella that explains how some 'riches' can be illusory. When Kino discovers the pearl of his dreams, the pearl that will feed his wife and child, he cannot foresee the ill-fate that will descend upon him. This is an accessible novella - Steinbeck's language is simple, yet engaging: he is particularly astute in describing the changing dynamics of relationships between Kino and his wife: between Kino and the other villagers: between Kino and the establishment. The Pearl is a book you would want to re-read and lend to your friends (I've given my copy to three of my friends and they've all loved it). Of Mice and Men and Grapes of Wrath are superior books but The Pearl is, nevertheless, a powerful story - I'm surprised it hasn't been, as far as I know, reprised for the stage or screen.
on 27 October 2002
Most people born and raised in developed first world countries cannot even imagine the depths of poverty that most of the rest of the world are forced to live with. This story illuminates this fact, as we enter the world of Kino, a pearl diver and occasional fisherman, his wife Juana, and their baby son, Coyotito. All they have is a grass shack house, a few clay cooking utensils, and their prize possession, Kino's boat, inherited from his father and grandfather. The boat is the family's livelihood, providing the means to put a meal on the table and to provide a few pesos for store bought goods by selling the small pearls Kino is able to find.
But Kino and his family, far from being depressed or unhappy, have a great treasure, the love they have for each other and their satisfaction with life as it is, with few disturbing dreams of greater things. But their quiet, routine life is turned upside down the day that Kino finds a Great Pearl. Suddenly Kino can dream of better things: a rifle for himself, school for his son so he will be able to read and tell what is really in the books, a real house. But dreams can be deadly things. Dreams lead to desire, and desire to greed, and greed to violence.
What happens to Kino and family from this point on is not a pretty story. Now we see that underneath the quiet, idyllic seeming small town and its inhabitants lie the seeds of cheating, betrayal, collusion, fear, and murder. And we see the gradual loss of Kino's real treasures. By the end of the book, events have reached the level of real tragedy, and you, along with Kino, are liable to end up in a state of emotional exhaustion.
Steinbeck's prose for this book matches his characters and situation very well, a very minimalist sentence structure and set of speech patterns. As a parable, the story has a strong moralistic point, but Steinbeck does not overdrive his thematic message, but lets his story speak for itself. One of Steinbeck's great strengths was his ability to capture on paper the characters he saw around him, and this book is a showcase for that talent. The characters of Kino and Juana are exquisitely drawn, real people you can relate to even though their lifestyles may be very far from your own. And because they are real people, it is very hard not to get drawn into their lives, where their dreams and their pains very readily become your own.
This may not be Steinbeck's greatest book, as it is too short and with too limited a focus to compare to something like his Grapes of Wrath. But within its own territory, there are very few other pieces of literature that are even half as good.
on 8 April 2015
This is such an old theme for a story but well worth the retelling especially in this year of 2015 when everyone seems to be on the make. I found Steinbeck's writing to be as poignant and poetic as usual,getting into the hearts of Kino and Juana and making me hold my breath several times during the narrative. Steinbeck was a wonderful writer and although I always find his characters and themes challenging, it is a good thing...it makes me think!
on 20 September 2014
This was a present to my husband for our 30th wedding anniversary (Pearl), so it's his opinion you're getting here. I've known it for ages,as I read it with my 4th and 5th year classes (when 4th and 5th year classes existed in secondary schools and not the ridiculous Year 10 and 11). It's a great morality tale about priorities, greed, and has the considerable merit of being short!
on 18 February 2014
Set in an indigenous fishing village at the turn of the century, this is a simply-structured tale of betrayal, fear, envy and hate. The plot moves like a melody to a vicious and abrupt finale. Only a short story, this is a fantastic example of the power of Steinbeck’s ability to describe and decipher the deepest human emotions.