13 August 2011

'The Winter of Our Discontent' Book Review

I found this book hard to get through, for a while at least. It didn't seem to draw me in like the rest of Steinbeck's books do. It took about half of the book to get me really involved. The sometimes first person narrative threw me a little, I must admit. The story was good though. I thought it was a little...older in feeling than the others I have read, but it makes sense as it was his last novel.

From the blurb: Ethan Allen Hawley's family has come down in the world. His father's people were prosperous ship-owner sin New Baytown, but Ethan is a clerk in a grocery store...One day the seed of a chance incident blossoms into a fantastic resolution in Ethan's mind. Why shouldn't the mouse sharpen his teeth and join the rat-race? Why shouldn't the honest man use the very quality of steel that has made him honest to cut his way through the competitive jungle? Ethan is armed for his pirate project not only with his reputation but with a great deal of inside knowledge about his customers, the citizens of New Baytown. The winter of our discontent appears to have turned to glorious summer. But though he has proved several superficial truths,he has forgotten a fundamental one: dishonesty is invisibly infectious.
I think the way I read this, in between a myriad of other books, contributed to me not liking it as much as Steinbeck's other novels. I love reading Steinbeck because he is refreshing, and for this book, like the blurb says "he has put his finger on the pulse of a small town." Steinbeck is an expert at showing that though people appear different on the surface, thoughts, feeling, impulses, and urges are the same within. 
The Winter of Our Discontent was darker, I thought, than a lot of his earlier work. I enjoyed reading it. As always the characterisation was superb, and New Baytown was described in intricate detail. The plot was more in evidence than in some of his other work, and it was overall an engrossing novel.

I give it:

Plot: ***
Characters: *****
Voice: ***
Originality: ***
Dialogue: *****

Which means... four stars
Amazon listing here.

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