Book Review / The Pastures of Heaven by John Steinbeck

My Rating: 3 of 5 Stars

Page Count: 201

Date Finished: July 22, 2017

 

This right here is more like the Steinbeck I know and love.

The Pastures of Heaven was likely the world’s first encounter with how strong his social narrative could be in respect to small town people. The Pastures of Heaven, his second work and published in 1932, radiates with the signature Steinbeck style that I didn’t feel when I read Cup of Gold. The Pastures of Heaven is the land between Salinas and Monterey, so right there you know he is in his sweet spot. Like his later works, he creates an atmosphere and a relationship with the setting of the story, but the real spotlight is always the people who inhabit it. Every character that is introduced is flawed in many ways, but you can’t help but feel for them as they live through mistakes, tragedy, and triumph. He takes characters from one story and has them appear later on in another story to fully illustrate the surroundings and sense of community that is not unlike Cannery Row. The way people are introduced to begin each story reminded me of the beginning portion in East of Eden where he patiently introduces the characters and setting. The dark subject matter is dealt with head on and builds throughout, providing an interesting contrast with the colors and beauty of the land. Steinbeck highlights in one of the stories how outsiders looking in feel the people on these farms must live a simple and fulfilling existence, but in reality, they have no idea what goes on in these folks lives.

Reading this I couldn’t help but feel like I wanted to know more about each of these stories. It was a sort of tease because they were short stories with not much closure. Its point was more to provide an interesting social study in each one. Because of this small taste of what’s to come, I couldn’t be more excited to read more of his work. I don’t know how long these stories will stick with me, but they were definitely enjoyable. They are also re-readable. I could revisit these and likely notice more of the nuances in the generational aspect in some of the stories and the overall timeline in which they occurred. A solid summer read, filled with smooth and vibrant prose. To a God Unknown is next!

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