Thursday, 3 December 2009

Page Turners: Cannery Row

The last book for the Page Turners year was Cannery Row by John Steinbeck. It's a very thin book, more novella than novel, yet still I didn't manage to finish it before the meeting tonight. The problem was that I didn't start it until Tuesday evening, by which time it was all too too late.

What I did read, however (about 50 pages, or ~1/3), I rather enjoyed for the most part. It's set in a rather downbeat community on a small street lined with sardine fisheries in Monterey California. It revolves around the people living there, all of them quirky and struggling and yet strangely content. The main plot deals with a group of local bums wanting to 'do something nice' for Doc - a marine biologist who is arguably the most respectable and well-to-do in the community. Yet the chapters dealing with this are interspersed with myriad vignettes focusing on others who live there as well -- there's a couple who live in an abandoned boiler, the madame of a brothel, Frankie the kid with a troubled family life who befriends Doc, and many others I didn't get to meet.

I found the language and imagery used in the novel very evocative and powerful, and although I didn't identify with any of the characters, had sufficient interest in them to be quite entertained. Most have dubious morals and few are even likable, but on an intellectual level it held me.

I have to say, though, that it hasn't held me to the extent that I am going to finish it right away. I have a few other books waiting in the wings that I am dying to read, so Cannery Row, like most of my unfinished PT books, will be discarded at this point. It's frustrating to think of the number of books I have partially read, but when my reading time is so limited, as it is presently, I am going to prioritise the books that have me making excuses to read them.

We enjoyed a fairly animated discussion about the book this evening, but I didn't take any notes . . . I believe a majority had actually finished it for once, which always helps!


  1. Oh! I read this book ages ago. I can't say it was thrilling, but it held my attention, and it was interesting learning about the various characters. But it wasn't great time out.

  2. that sums it up well for me too!