Review: Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

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“Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonks, restaurants and whore houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flophouses. Its inhabitants are, as the man once said, ‘whores, pimps, gamblers, and sons of bitches,’ by which he meant Everybody. Had the man looked through another peephole he might have said, ‘Saints and angels and martyrs and holy men,’ and he would have meant the same thing.”

I love Steinbeck, I really do, despite the fact that every time I pick up one of his books I drag my feet to start because in reality they seem like books I wouldn’t like. I’m not really that into American history, and its hard to get much more American than Steinbeck. But even if you aren’t interested in Depression era fiction, Steinbeck has the most beautiful prose that will keep you coming back again and again.

My absolute favorite part of the book is the chapter about the gopher because not only does it sum up the book neatly, it broke my heart over a gopher of all things. If you’re curious, here’s the Sparknotes break down of the chapter, but I really recommend you just read the book because Sparknotes in no way captures the beauty and heartbreak of the chapter.

Cannery Row happens to be my favorite Steinbeck to date (I’ve also read Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men) and the pure beauty of it makes me pretty anxious to get through my nightstand pile to East of Eden which I have been putting off for an eternity now.

5/5 stars.

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