I finished listening to an audiobook edition of this novel this morning and since then I’ve been wondering how I’d find the words to say how much I love it. Steinbeck was not on my high school English syllabus, not on the syllabus when I was at university and for the past thirty years has been one of those writers who I knew I “should” read, without actually getting around to doing so. Finally, a trip to Monterey prompted me to acquire and listen to the audiobook. And now I think I have fallen in love with it.
There is so very much I love about this book. I love the humour, which to me was quite unexpected. I love the sadness, which is always there, just below the surface. I love the use of language: the clear, strong prose, the poetry of the descriptive language and the wonderful use of simile and metaphor. I love the seemingly effortless evocation of time and place. I love the fact that in spite of the novel being a string of linked vignettes rather than a linear narrative, Steinbeck was able to create suspense. (Some of the suspense is probably unintentional. I frequently wondered whether the enormous amount of alcohol consumed in the course of the novel would lead to any of the characters causing a motor vehicle accident!)
However, most of all, I love the characters. After spending just over five hours with them, I feel like I’ve known Doc, Mack and the boys, Lee Chong, Dora and the other characters all my life. Cannery Road and the characters who live there – with all their flaws – come from a place of compassion and love. The characters are truly wonderful. To me, they're not just characters, they’re real people and they’re going to stay with me for a long time.
Trevor White’s narration of the audiobook considerably added to my enjoyment of the work. I am very much looking forward to reading more Steinbeck. In five short hours I’ve become a huge fan.