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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

April 2014 marks the 75th anniversary of the first Viking hardcover publication of Steinbeck’s crowning literary achievement First published in 1939, Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize–winning epic of the Great Depression chronicles the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s and tells the story of one Oklahoma farm family, the Joads, driven from their homestead and forced to travel west to the promised land of California. Out of their trials and their repeated collisions against the hard realities of an America divided into haves and have-nots evolves a drama that is intensely human yet majestic in its scale and moral vision, elemental yet plainspoken, tragic but ultimately stirring in its human dignity. A portrait of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless, of one man’s fierce reaction to injustice, and of one woman’s stoical strength, the novel captures the horrors of the Great Depression and probes the very nature of equality and justice in America. As Don DeLillo has claimed, Ste…

The Grapes of Wrath

by John Steinbeck

Overall Book Review:

If you would like to taste the dust and despair of the Depression, this book delivers.  The format of the book alternates chapters detailing the travels of the Joad family from Oklahoma to California during the Great Depression with chapters of description that detail vignettes of the times:  the abandoned farms, the Hoovervilles, the truck stops on Highway 66, and so forth.

The first 150 pages were a chore to wade through, but by the mid-point of the book I had been (surprisingly) drawn into caring for the family.  I especially began to feel for the Joad matriarch as she desperately attempts to hold her family together in a world that is disintegrating around her.  Drawn in, I wanted to know what would happen to the Joads, but knowing John Steinbeck, I was almost afraid to find out.  It ended a bit abruptly and more than a bit bizarrely.

This book was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1940 and is considered an American classic.  Is it a worthwhile read?  There are definitely moments of literary brilliance so I am torn.

Content Analysis:

Due to the unrelenting profanity in this book and some sexual references, I can’t give this a clean read recommendation.  The characters are constantly using profanity, crude language, and religious profanities.  It isn’t the profanity you find at the local high school because it was a different era when this book was written, but it is plentiful in the characters’ dialogue. 

The sexual content is primarily in the first half of the book and is usually characters dialoging about their sexual promiscuity.  There are several conversations of such a nature. 

There is a scene detailing some dogs breeding with character commentary.  Violence involves references to fights, murder, beatings, a fire, but the descriptions are not overly graphic.  The most graphic violence is an accidental shooting of a woman’s hand and a man beat with a pick axe. 

Mature Subject Matter:

Mature themes…where do I begin?  This is about the Great Depression

Alcohol / Drug Use:


Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

An accountant and CPA by profession, I found myself a book reviewer for Squeaky Clean Reads by happenstance. When the opportunity came to transform that website into Compass Book Ratings, I was excited to seize it and meld my business background with my love of books. As the mother of three teenage sons, I have read a large number of children and young adult books and I believe that there is great value in a content review service. As much as we would love to read everything our children read, there just isn’t enough time. I also appreciate being able to select books for myself that are really worth my precious and limited reading time. I believe there is a book out there for everyone–they just have to find it!