Monday, February 25, 2013

Review: Cannery Row

Cannery Row, John  Steinbeck
Read for Book Club
Rating: 3.0/5.0

The description, from
Unburdened by the material necessities of the more fortunate, the denizens of Cannery Row discover rewards unknown in more traditional society.
Henri the painter sorts through junk lots for pieces of wood to incorporate into the boat he is building, while the girls from Dora Flood’s bordello venture out now and then to enjoy a bit of sunshine. Lee Chong stocks his grocery with almost anything a man could want, and Doc, a young marine biologist who ministers to sick puppies and unhappy souls, unexpectedly finds true love.
Cannery Row is just a few blocks long, but the story it harbors is suffused with warmth, understanding, and a great fund of human values.
Cannery Row is my third go-round with Steinbeck. I tried to read East of Eden when Oprah chose it for her book club. That didn't go well and I abandoned it a few chapters in. Later, I made it through Of Mice and Men and actually almost enjoyed it. On the advice of some lovely people from LibraryThing, I decided to try a couple more short novels before returning to East of Eden. Cannery Row was one of the recommendations so when it came up as a book club suggestion at our last meeting, I happily voted for it, thinking it a perfect opportunity to test the waters again.

As it turns out, Steinbeck and I are just not meant for each other. This is not to say that Cannery Row isn't good. Like Of Mice and Men, it has moments that are genuinely funny and moments that are terribly sad. Steinbeck conveys those scenes very well. Still, I didn't find it satisfying. Like my previous attempts with his books, I didn't connect with the characters. That's a bit of a deal-breaker for a character driven story like this one. Maybe I just don't "get it" and that's ok.

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