Book Review / The Pearl by John Steinbeck

I didn’t really know much about this one going into it other than forming an idea based on the image of a boy and a pearl on the penguin classics cover. But it’s not even a grown boy in the story, it’s only a baby. Maybe it was actually the Dad and I didn’t look close enough. I had a vision in my head that it was going to take place in the ocean, with the boy digging for clams in search of a wonderful pearl. Turns out it’s a grown man and only a small portion of the story takes place on a boat rather than going full blown Old Man and the Sea. In short, this story is about a poor family on a coast in Mexico made up of a pearl diver named Kino, his wife Juana, and their infant son Coyotito. When a scorpion bites Coyotito, the family is unable to get him medical treatment because they don’t have the money. So Kino sets out to find a pearl to sell that will save his son’s life. It has classic Steinbeck storytelling. There’s even some suspense that keeps you reading. But since it’s based on a folktale, it reads like one and the people in the story seem like cardboard cutouts with no real depth to them. I know it’s not the point but this is the same problem I had with Siddhartha– though I think Siddhartha is better. I enjoy the story but it really doesn’t resonate with me any deeper than that. There is a ton of symbolism involving social climates and greed. I particularly liked the descriptive writing in the second half of the story where Steinbeck simultaneously builds suspense and creates a visual landscape of surrounding mountains. But overall this book is one of those that angered me at every turn. I don’t think it’s Steinbeck’s most realistic plot or his strongest story, but even so, it’s still readable and I could see it being a decent entry point for some readers new to Steiny.

Rating: 2 of 5 Stars

Date Finished: April 8, 2018

Page Count: 97

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