The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

In The Grapes of Wrath (published 1939), John Steinbeck captured the lives of his contemporary Americans, those living at or below the poverty line in the midst of the Great Depression. While the Joads’ migrant story was moving and I came to love many of the family members, The Grapes of Wrath is so much more than the story of one family. In between the narrative sequences about the Joad family, Steinbeck writes more general descriptive chapters about the fate of masses of migrants uprooted from their homes during the Dust Bowl and forced to search for work in California amidst thousands of other displaced workers. The Grapes of Wrath is about an entire people of otherwise unrecognized poor in our nation’s history.

This is why we keep reading it, even 70 years later. While the plight of poor workers has hopefully improved by today, the unnoticed poor still need a voice. Reading The Grapes of Wrath gives historical perspective, but it also reminds us that there is a majority that is often not represented in literature. Continue Reading

Reading Journal (23 Aug) + Reading Red in Review

Some of you may have noticed I disappeared from blogging and reading blogs for a month this summer. I also essentially stopped reading for a few weeks too. Since my post July 22 until I posed my review of Candide, I read only Candide, which was 90 pages. Besides it being summer (and therefore busy and fun for me and for Raisin), there are personal family things going on that made blogging difficult. All is alright, and I’m glad to be back!

Not only am I finding the blogging groove again, but I’m feeling my desire to read again. I have finished The Grapes of Wrath for the Classics Circuit, and I also found myself reading all of The Glass Menagerie while my son played at the library today. That felt good!

In just two more weeks, Raisin goes back to preschool for two mornings a week. I’ll have some time to get back to regular reviewing when that comes. For the next two weeks, please continue to bear with me while I try to get my feet back on the ground.

I must add a special thank you for the nomination for Book Blogger Appreciation Week: Best Classics Blog. There are so many incredible classics blogs I’ve discovered that I feel a little out of place, given my disappearance this summer and my general difficulties in blogging regularly over the past year. Nevertheless, I certainly do appreciate all my blog readers and I thank you for the vote of confidence! I don’t want to go anywhere.Continue Reading

Candide, or Optimism, by Volatire

Voltaire’s Candide (originally published 17581) is alternatively titled Optimism. A rosy outlook on life is the main target of Voltaire’s satire. Rather than embracing a truly pessimistic approach to the world, however, Voltaire seems to me to be arguing for a realistic and reasonable approach to life. The humorous look at both optimism and pessimism (as well as politics, religion, war, chivalric romance, and more) provides fuel for his fire.

I am not familiar with the eighteenth-century philosophies prevalent during the Age of Reason so my response to a satire of the era is more superficial than I wish it was. Because I lead the discussion for my book group, though, I can say I better appreciate Candide now than when I first read it at 18 or when I reread it two weeks ago.

This post contains “spoilers” for Candide.Continue Reading

  1. translated from the French by Roger Pearson, Oxford World’s Classics. All page numbers come from 2008 World’s Classics edition

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson (First Read Rambles)

Through a series of vignettes, Tove Jansson in The Summer Book (first published 1972) manages to create a magical summer on an island, a summer in which one young girl grows up a little and a grandmother comes to terms with her advancing age. Young Sophie has recently lost her mother, and that’s all we know about that. As she spends one seemingly magical summer in her family cabin with her grandmother and her father, she grows up, learns to cope, and finds peace in nature.

The friendship between grandchild and grandmother is the highlight of the book. Sophie is in between babyhood and childhood, while grandmother watches her play with wistfulness for her own childhood.Continue Reading