Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

“It is the hour of the pearl–the interval between day and night when time stops and examines itself.”

I’m obsessed with the atmosphere Steinbeck created in Cannery Row. It’s a sort of liminal space where thoughts, hopes, and dreams can run wild and judgment dissipates, if only for a brief while. I read this book in August, a month that has always felt like the “hour of the pearl” for me, too. That month of transition when you’re itching for fall but reminding yourself to savor the summer. Those weeks of squeezing all your summer bucket list items in at the last minute, the feeling of sunshine and warmth and long daylight gradually slipping through your fingers. There’s a sense of waiting in the air, an excitement bordering on anxiety. This book was that for me, and I loved the way it reflected life.

“Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream.”

I’m continually amazed by how Steinbeck captures the earnestness of his characters, how he brings out the beauty in everything and everyone. His characters are flawed–sometimes painfully, tragically so–but they remind us of ourselves in that way. No thoughtful gesture is too small. No ray of morning sunlight goes unnoticed.

Cannery Row is a novel of daily life. Yet Steinbeck’s framework and language evokes a feeling of grandiosity, a magnification that makes each mundane moment feel like the most magnificent event that could have occurred. This novel felt like dusk and dawn, like staring out at the faraway horizon, like crickets and cicadas fading into song. More than anything, I loved the almost dreamlike feeling this novel evoked.

Another fantastic Steinbeck novel in the books.

Have you read Cannery Row? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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3 responses to “Cannery Row by John Steinbeck”

  1. This is one of my favourite books. I try to reread it every year!

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  2. I’m a sucker for John Steinbeck. I love all of his work.

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  3. I want to read this soon. I have only read his three most famous works and that was enough to make him my favourite author

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