Review: The Pearl – John Steinbeck

The PearlAs anyone who follows this blog knows, I’m trying to revisit authors that I read at school. Steinbeck is one of them. Rather than go in at the deep end with one of his heavier novels, I decided that a novella was the way to dip my toes back in to his writing. I decided on this purely because it must be special as it’s the only one that is published in the Penguin Clothbound editions! But I’m reviewing the Penguin Modern Classic edition because I think when I finally have the full collection it will look beautiful on my shelf. Excuse my book vanity.

Interestingly, this book seemed to capture and convey so much more than I anticipated in its 91 pages (minus a few as there were illustrations!) Ultimately I think it’s a story of happiness; and how wealth doesn’t necessarily bring that, it only brings out the worst in people.Steinbeck is a master of a writer. I’m so glad I’m exploring his work. His writing is poignant and his stories are full of life. He describes everything so wonderfully that I could picture it all perfectly.

The story itself is quite basic. What I didn’t know is it’s a retelling of an age old folk tale from Mexico (I think). Kino, a pearl diver, and his wife live modestly with their son, their son is bitten by a scorpion and in an effort to save his life – to pay for a doctor – Kino goes out to sea to hopefully find a pearl that will be able to cover the cost of treatment. He finds one but the promise of wealth brings out the worst in not only Kino, but the neighbourhood. People take advantage of him and madness ensues, really. But in just under 100 pages there is love and loss, happiness and sadness, wealth and poverty. It’s very clear that Steinbeck had an interest in people, each character – even down to those in the background – were rounded and clear.

It’s an age old tale of “be careful what you wish for” and I’ll very happily give this 4/5. I think I’ll be braver next time and tackle a larger Steinbeck book though because 100 pages just isn’t enough of his writing!

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