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The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Originally published by Viking Penguin in 1939.
This version published by Penguin, 2000.

This book is the epic story of the Joad family’s migration from the Oklahoma Dust Bowl to the promised land of California. Shocking and controversial when it was first published in 1939 when America was still recovering from the Great Depression, The Grapes of Wrath remains Steinbeck’s undisputed masterpiece.

Three generations of the Joad family, Oklahoma sharecroppers driven from their
farm by the tractor and the dust, set out on the road, joining thousands of others seeking a decent life in fertile California. Lured by the golden dream of unlimited work in the fields and orchards of California and the possibility of a piece of land to call their own, over 300,000 people undertook that journey.

This is the story of the Joad’s journey and of the future that awaits them in the promised land. Their story is one of false hopes, thwarted desires and broken dreams, yet out of their suffering Steinbeck creates a drama that is intensely human, yet majestic in its scale and moral vision. Steinbeck chronicles the Joads’ refusal, even inability, to let go of their faltering but unmistakable hold on human dignity.

The Grapes of Wrath poses fundamental questions about justice, the roles of men and women, the ownership of land, the role of government, power and the very foundations of capitalistic society – yet this book is an easy read. The reader cares deeply about the plight of the Joads and shares their suffering, loss and humiliation. Through all the hunger, squalor and misery, the endurance and dignity of the human spirit shines through.

The deValera Library book club read The Grapes of Wrath for discussion in June. Although some members found the size of the book, the slow start and the fact that most of the book is written in the country vernacular of the destitute workers a little off-putting initially, all of the members thoroughly enjoyed the book. In fact, many left the library with Steinbeck’s East of Eden (another epic read) under their arms – surely a good recommendation!

‘A terrible and indignant book; yet the ultimate impression is that of the dignity of the human spirit under the stress of the most desperate conditions’ Guardian

‘A novelist who is also a true poet’ Sunday Times

John Steinbeck was born in rural California.
Steinbeck won the Pulitzer Prize for The Grapes of Wrath in 1940.
He also won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962.

By the same author:
East of Eden
Cannery Row
Of Mice and Men
The Pearl
To a God Unknown
Tortilla Flat

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