The Classic Spin – Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

I’ve just realised that I’m a day late doing this post for the Classics Club Spin number 11, particularly annoying as I finished reading John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row about a month ago. The book was first published in 1945 but the setting is Monterey, California during the Great Depression.

Cannery Row is a street full of sardine canneries, as you can imagine it isn’t the most salubrious of places. It’s smelly and the local workforce is mainly single men who need their comforts so there’s a local brothel which is owned by Dora Flood. She seems to be propping up the whole community as she is so heavily taxed on the whorehouse earnings. She takes great care of her girls, a madam with a heart of gold.

Lee Chong owns a grocer shop, he’s ever on the lookout for a business opportunity but at the same time he’s very easy going and is owed a lot of money from various customers. When a group of local men led by Mack hear that Lee Chong has become the owner of a warehouse they decide that it could be the perfect home for them. When they suggest to Lee Chong that they move in there he thinks it is best to go along with their wishes as otherwise they will probably destroy the warehouse anyway. The guys are well known troublemakers, not so much because they’re evil but they are so immature and stupid that even with the best of intentions everything they do ends in trouble for other people. Mack and the guys have evolved the prefect life/work balance for themselves, only working enough to be able to pay for their immediate needs and dodging work otherwise.

Doc is a marine biologist and lives just across the road from the grocery store. He lives by gathering marine specimens and sending them to various universities to be examined, as well as carrying out experiments himself. He’s also seen as being the local medical man although he’s unqualified, and he’s happy to patch people up when they need it.

Mack and the boys get it into their heads that it’s about time that they showed Doc their appreciation of him and they plan to give him a surprise party. You just know it’s going to be disastrous.

I really enjoyed Cannery Row, it’s funny and has a cast of likeable characters. It’s also a very quick read, just a novella really, but now I want to go on and read all of Steinbeck’s books. I’ll have to add them to my Classics Club list.

4 thoughts on “The Classic Spin – Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

  1. LOVE Steinbeck, and I loved Cannery Row — my favorite bit was the part with the frog hunting. I’ve read a lot of Steinbeck now and it’s still one of my favorites. I also loved Travels with Charley, East of Eden, and Grapes of Wrath. There’s also a sequel to Cannery Row called Sweet Thursday which I liked though not quite as much as Cannery Row, but maybe it’s because it was about five years between reading the two.

    • Karen K,
      Thanks, I’ll definitely try to get the sequel. I loved Travels with Charley, I have a lovely Folio edition, Steinbeck really seemed such a nice man, like a friend by the time I got to the end of the book. I still have to read East of Eden. I enjoyed Of Mice and Men recently. It only seems to be his more famous books that Fife libraries have in stock so I’ll have to buy some.

    • Anne,
      I haven’t read that one but I’ve just borrowed The Moon is Down, which has a very different subject from any of his books that I have read so far. I enjoyed your review of The Yearling, thanks, and thank you for taking the time to comment.

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