Book reviews

Is it wrong of me to have chosen The Pearl by John Steinbeck for my list of fifty books to read for The Classics Club because it is short?

In my defence, having struggled through The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden when I was far too young to appreciate either, I couldn’t bring myself to commit to such a long story by this author again.

The Pearl is the story of what happens to a poor young Mexican couple, Kino and Juana, after their baby is stung by a scorpion. They rushed the baby off to a doctor, who refused to see them because all Kino could offer in payment for his services were a handful of oddly-shaped, and nearly worthless seed pearls.

On returning home, Kino, a fisherman, went diving for oysters in the hope of finding a pearl of sufficient value to pay the doctor for the baby’s treatment. He found a pearl so big and beautiful that by the time news of the find reached the doctor, it had become known as ‘The Pearl of the World.’

Perhaps not surprisingly, Kino’s find brought out the very worst of human nature. Initially Kino dreamed of sending his child to school and marrying Juana with the money from the pearl’s sale, but it didn’t take long for his dreams to expand significantly. Worse, the actions caused by other people’s greed for the pearl changed Kino and his family’s lives forever.

I found The Pearl to be a sad story, but well told. While it is a very short story, the length is also exactly right, as any more would have been padding and any less would have meant that important components of the story weren’t told. I’m fairly sure I’ll read more of Steinbeck’s short stories in future and who knows? I might even work my way up to re-reading his larger novels eventually.

The Pearl was book eleven in my Classics Club challenge to read 50 classics before my challenge end date of August 26, 2013.

Comments on: "The Pearl by John Steinbeck" (4)

  1. Well, since I have this one coming up soon, I’m pleased to hear you enjoyed it. And short is very appealing, especially when it comes to Steinbeck! I do have East of Eden still lingering on my Classics Club list though…

  2. Short is always appealing! I added a few books to my Classics Club list because they were short, particularly in cases like Steinbeck… You’ll have to face East of Eden eventually, and when you do, I’ll read your review and decide if I can or not!

  3. Noooooo, please don’t frighten me about East of Eden and Grapes of Wrath, you two! I fully intend to read both and I’ve convinced myself that I’ll love them. I’ve convinced myself that I’ll love anything by Steinbeck on what is really very slight evidence. I’m quite scared to try these days; I’ve built his books up inot something so huge that really, where can they go but down?

    More seriously, Rose, I do sympathise on what can happen when we meet an author while we’re too young. For me that was Dickens. But fast forward many decades and I’m loving him. So it’s not too late for you and Steinbeck 🙂

  4. I think you and Steinbeck will get on just fine 😀 It’s definitely not too late for Steinbeck and me, either, but I am going to build up to the big novels gradually.
    Glad to hear you learned to love Dickens. I’ve only started to appreciate and enjoy his work in the last few years too, but

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