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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 9 June 2017
I am ashamed to say that I never read any John Steinbeck books in my youth, but am now thoroughly enjoying them. I read Of Mice and Men a few months ago and loved that and now moved on to The Grapes of Wrath. From the very beginning I was totally hooked into the story of suffering and poverty faced by the Joad family. As with a lot of families it is the strong female figure that keeps the family going and when things get tough we realise that Ma Joad is indeed that woman. No matter what the family have to face, she is the one who keeps it together and battles on. The story starts with the return home of Tom who is released from prison after killing a man. He then discovers the family have left the small holding they have run and are about to depart on the road to a better life in California. However as we know this is the 1930's and nothing is as simple as it seems. Things are incredibly hard for the Joad family and a series of tragedies follow.

I do not wish to write anymore as it will spoil the plot, but all I will say is that this is a masterwork of incredible writing and I would definitely recommend it to anyone as a brilliant look at the social development and suffering of 1930's America.
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I remembered The Grapes of Wrath from school many years ago and decided to re-read it. I am so glad I did. This is a powerful novel that had left a profound impression. I had read the novel only twice at school, but remembered so much of it so clearly. Pretty much scene by scene, it was all familiar. I remembered whole phrases, whole sentences, many images.

I imagine anyone coming to this novel will know it documents the westward migration from the dustbowl states to California on the false promise of rich fruit-picking opportunities. Steinbeck controls his material perfectly, interleaving chapters set at the personal level following the Joad family, and chapters at the societal level including political observations, editorial comment and anecdotes that broaden the focus from the Joads. He balances the naive hope against the warning signs all around. Even on the third read when the ending is known, the reader is still rooting for Tom Joad, still wishing they could stay in the Government camp, still hoping Herbert Hoover might do something to end the misery.

The Grapes of Wrath is a long book, but it is a quick read that is difficult to put down. This is an object lesson in quality of writing, bringing people and places to life; and it is also a mighty historical record of a short but important time of social change in the United States.

I hardly ever reread books - maybe I should do it more often.
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on 17 July 2017
This American classic describes the plight of economic migrants in forthright, harrowing detail. The dignity and nobility of the starving Joad family grows in proportion to the inhumanity of corporate landowners in 1920s America. It is a book of the most basic contrasts; dustbowl Oklahoma and voluptuously fertile California; dispossessed share croppers and million acre landowners; toadying law officers and mutual self-help.

Steinbeck was accused of red agitation in this, his greatest work, but any objective reader will take notice of the parallels between then and now. The gulf between haves and have-nots was blurred and rendered temporarily irrelevant by World War 2 and the prosperity of its consequent industrial boom in Fortress America.

Hunger, lack of work and basic accommodation are sweeping northwards and westwards from the eastern Mediterranean, just as they swept westwards across America in Grapes of Wrath. Even if we have no answers, I believe this book should be re-read annually. Out of sight must not be out of mind.
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The Audible version is a good partner. The Kindle version behaves. The novel is one of the great morally imaginative, passionately concerned, literary treats of the twentieth century. Evocative in symbolism, down to earth as a clod of earth, gripping as a child's trusting hand, it's road journey is also a heart journey, a painful, soaring testament to humanity's flaws and foibles, but also its creative love and courage through the microcosm of a family. Those interested in Sheld organising companies will appreciate the (inspired by real life) example of the US refugee camp. Those concerned for the refugee crisis of today will see this US migrant story as a paradigm for comparison. And for anyone it may be a resource to carry in your own life journey.
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on 22 February 2015
At the funeral of Emile Zola, the great 19th-century French writer, Anatole France describes him as `a moment in the human conscience'. John Steinbeck treads ground which Zola would have recognised. His novel 'La Terre' is a story of dispossession, and powerlessness; of a peasantry faced with social and economic change. And though Steinbeck's iconography is quintessentially American, his tale of the Joads is a depressingly familiar one everywhere; of families with small parcels of land who are overtaken by the hormonal rush of pubescent capitalism.

The English Enclosure movements from the 16th to the 18th centuries drove masses of humanity out of the countryside. In rags and tatters they drifted forlornly into makeshift accommodation in the new urban areas, lacking in every amenity from sewers to a proper police force. With no poor relief their muscle and blood drove the wheels of the dark Satanic mills, or else they endured the terrors of the mines.

That was more than a century earlier. By the 1930s British workers suffered the depression no less than their American counterparts, as they turned out in their hunger marches. It is easy for those born since the great economic watershed that was the Second World War to miss the point about being penniless and destitute. But Steinbeck does not let us get away so easily. Most wonderfully of all he finds a way of describing destitution within the context of a hard-working and loving family, who remain as devoted to one another as they are to a stoical contestation of the most appalling conditions. Steinbeck's moral compass is in perfect working order. And he avoids any temptation to turn his work into a political tract. It is a story of humanity.

Notwithstanding his success as a humanitarian writer, one nonetheless feels some sympathy for those detractors, particularly among some American reviewers on Amazon.com, who draw attention to a lack of strength in the plot, and Steinbeck's less than inspirational prose. For whilst he reproduces the speech pattern of the Okies with devotion, his own articulative style, and his ability to craft a compelling storyline do seem lacking. But that is only, in my view and that of just one of those reviewers, if you compare Steinbeck to the truly great writers, the Dostoevsky's, the Dickens, the George Elliots, and even, in my own opinion, to his contemporary George Orwell.

Moreover, one just wonders whether, in America, of the period, Steinbeck had quite enough support in society at large to take on the powerful Californian moneyed interests in a more politically charged way. In Orwell's case the British working-class movement had undoubtedly been an encouragement. Steinbeck may have had to face up to being a lone voice to a greater extent. But there is no doubt Steinbeck played a part in the creation of the new order of thinking for the post-war world. Though his prose and his descriptive powers may not reach the great heights, Steinbeck is worthy, like Zola, of consideration as a `moment in the human conscience'.
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on 15 August 2017
Well what can I say?
One of the most amazingly moving books I’ve ever read.
The ending was left wide open so you’re left to draw your own conclusions, but I grew to care so much about the Joads I want to know that they’re going to be ok in the end.
Such amazing endurance and still they clung to hope despite all the adversity in their path.
John Steinbeck wanted to write a great book and by heck he did.
I cannot recommend this book enough
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on 11 July 2015
An author who's books I have been reluctant to read because I thought it would be 'old fashioned' prose. I took a chance and so pleased I did!
A thoroughtly enjoyable read even though the characters 'spoke' in their peculiar dialect, after a few pages I didn't even notice it. Fiction set in an historical time frame - I learned much about America's past and the suffering and fortitude of the people during the droughts at that time and how the mechanisation process and capitalism pushed small farmers off their lands and into poverty. Beside that it had an excellent story line, with vivid characters. When I mentioned to an American collegue that I was reading The Grapes of Wroth she actually blanched and said 'oh no, I hated the book, we were forced to read it as a school set-work book'.
I suggested she read it again now that she is in her 30's, and I would suggest to all those reading this review that they discard any negative pre-conceptions they might have of this book, it is extremely readable and kept me absorbed until the last page....
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on 15 August 2016
I was put off reading this "Classic" for many years having read Steinbeck's "King Arthur & the Knights" and "Travels with Charley" which I thought were very unimpressive. It turns out, of course, that The Grapes of Wrath is indeed a true classic. Makes you angry at how families and individuals were crushed under the wheels of capitalism's "progress" and just as relevant today as it was then. This book has ignited my interest in reading more of Steinbeck and I realise that my first two samples of his work were perhaps poor examples compared to the power of Grapes of Wrath.
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on 6 June 2017
This book gave a graphic description of what I'm sure was happening in the USA in the 30s and 40s. It depicts the suffering, starvation and the unfairness of life for the masses, whilst the few grew richer and used despicable measures to keep the working class on less than starvation levels.

It was well written with compassion. It's as relevant today as it was when it was penned. This is a must read book.
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on 13 May 2014
It is rare that a book influences government policy but this one pushed the US to introduce laws to stop the abuse suffered by the Oklahoma farm workers from the land owners and other authorities on the West Coast following the mass exodus west to find work.It is mainly for this reason that I give the book a 5 star rating instead of 4.The characters speak in a southern dialect using expressions which I found difficult to follow although I appreciate this is essential.The book describes the harrowing experiences of the Joad family as they seek to find a better life in California after being displaced from Oklahoma.Reading of the promise of jobs picking grapes and peaches the Jodes suffered tragedy,illness and awful living conditions in camps as they travelled west. It was all to no avail as hundreds of thousand families chased few jobs enabling the land owners to force the lucky ones to accept paltry wages for back breaking work.Those who objected were subjected to ill treatment at the hands of armed guards. Steinbeck,s book shamed the authorities into taking steps to put a stop to these practices.
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