It is not easy to write a review for a book you liked so much. Where do you start ?

"The grapes of wrath" tells the story of the Joads - a family of farmers from Oklahoma during the great depression, who like many people of their class were pushed from the bank-owned land they lived on by the advances in farming machinery and drove to California in a search of a better life. Hundreds of thousands of poor people flocked into the western state, where fruit-farm owners promised jobs in fruit picking. The problem was that in order to lower the labor wages, the farm owners tried to find many people for each single place of work, and because of this many of the newcomers were left living in hunger and terrible conditions, ready to grope any work available just to put food in the mouth of their children.

The storytelling is beautiful. Chapters of the family's progress in their quest are interspersed with chapters providing a more general view of the situation of those times - the misfortunes of so many in search of a respectable living.

This book is full of criticism on the cutthroat capitalism that leaves so many people without food in their mouths and roof over their heads. However, contrary to many other works, the criticism here is implicit, and it doesn't present any other alternative as a clearly better one (like in more explicitly social works). There's something very honest about it - the author just presents the situation as it is. The farm-owner cuts wages to the level at which people can hardly eat, but he has no choice - if he raises the wages, he won't be able to compete, and then his family won't be able to feed itself. It's that simple. I guess that to a thoughtful reader this book presents the problems of capitalism, but also hints that while it's no perfect, there is probably no better way to manage things. Another interesting point to which the author keeps returning is the dangerous saturation point at which there are hordes of hungry people around. When this happens, wrath and unrest are impossible to sustain and it may become an unmanageable problem. This is indeed something to consider.

One delightful aspect of the book is the language. All conversations are written in heavy southern-state American accent, which is a real pleasure to read - "this here car", "they's fellas", "should of figgered somepin'", "git drunk purty hard" and so on. I originally planned to write a part of this review humoristically using this accent, but when I finished the book it was obvious that there is nothing funny about it. The last third of the book is very sad, even tragic. Steinbeck has a knack for describing human misery which I can only compare to Hugo in Les Miserables.

To conclude - this book is excellent, highly recommended.


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