Has there been a film version?
It was made into a TV movie in 1983, starring Donald Sutherland.
Who are the important characters?
Ethan Allen Hawley – a grocery clerk who is descended from a line of wealthy whalers and pirates, he’s very dissatisfied with his life
Mary – Ethan’s wife
Margie Young-Hunt – the town’s loose woman, one of Mary’s friends, she also dabbles in tarot card reading
Marullo – the owner of the store Ethan works at, an Italian immigrant
Danny Taylor- the town drunk and one of Ethan’s childhood friends
Mr. Baker – the town banker
Allen and Ellen – Ethan’s teenage children
What’s it about?
Ethan Allen Hawley comes from a wealthy family who has lost its wealth. Now, instead of enjoying the fortunes from his ancestors’ whaling company, Ethan works for an Italian immigrant as a grocery store clerk. His wife and children badger him in their own ways about making more money and moving up in the world. And this brings Ethan to lower his morals – he plans a bank robbery, a forced suicide, a hostile business takeover, and an affair, all to happen in the span of two weeks.
Why is this book a classic/bestseller?
It’s by John Steinbeck and is a social commentary.
Do you recommend I read this book?
Yes. It’s excellent.
How did this book make your list?
I’d like to eventually read all of Steinbeck’s novels.
Has it won any awards?
No, but directly after it’s publication (less than a year) Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize for Literature.
“A strange and seeing time, the front steps of sleep.” – p 236
“Some otters still clove the water like secret furry whispers; rabbits poached in the gardens and gray squirrels moved like little waves in the streets of the village. Cock pheasants flapped and coughed their crowing. Blue herons poised in the shallow water like leggy rapiers and at night the bitterns cried out like lonesome ghosts.” – p 162
If you need a shorter book which will bring you to love John Steinbeck – this book here’s your man. Although at some times, it gets a little preachy – you’ll just have to deal with it if you want to read Steinbeck. I absolutely adored Ethan Allen Hawley. He is so dichotic; so good to everyone yet so conniving when he puts his mind to it. And the way he treats his wife is wonderful; I particularly enjoy how he comes up with little names for Mary – squirrel nut, dumpling dear, bugflower. Ethan’s relationship with his children is equally interesting, very love/hate. Each of the characters is very developed and specifically created to fill their niche in the story. And just as in true Steinbeck style, the story isn’t quite as happy as it could be – very poignant and telling of society.