`In Dubious Battle' is the first of Steinbeck's depression era books (which also comprises `Of Mice and Men' and `Grapes of Wrath) and whilst often overlooked in favour of the later two books, it is very much in the same vein. It has tight, richly evocative language and a story line that highlights the struggles of the time whilst offering up an engrossing plot. Following Jim Nolan, who helps in an apple pickers strike, this book makes you feel the anguish and frustrations of the workers being bullied and exploited by their employers and by the end you are feeling wrung out and exhausted as only a great book can make you feel. There was some controversy when this book was published and it was deemed to be sympathetic to communists and communism, but more than anything else it is a book about the down trodden and overlooked in society. I admit I am a fan of Steinbeck and his work, but even taking that into account this is exceptional even by his high standards. The language captures you immediately and you feel yourself admiring certain turns of phrase on a regular basis and your emotions being stimulated throughout, whether they be anger, sadness, loneliness, happiness or a whole gamut of other feelings. The story keeps you engaged until it's shattering conclusion and like `Of Mice and Men' and `Grapes of Wrath' it hits you with full impact and imprints itself on your memory to play over again and again over the coming days after you finish the book. This really is an exceptional novel and shows a master writer at his peak. This comes highly recommended indeed.
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