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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Pearl

The Pearl
by John Steinbeck
audio book: 2.75 hours


*** About the Book ***

After the success of THE GRAPES OF WRATH author John Steinbeck became uncomfortable with his sudden fame. About this time he reworked an old legend into a new story, which he called THE PEARL. In the story Keno, a pearl diver in a small Spanish village, finds the largest pearl anyone has ever seen. And just in time too, as his baby boy has been stung by a scorpion and needs medical care that Keno cannot afford. The pearl seems to be the solution to all the family's problems ... but is it really a blessing, or is it a curse?


*** Why I Read It ***

This book was referenced in the show LOST, and since I love Steinbeck anyway, I figured it was the perfect choice to read for the LOST Books Challenge. I knew nothing about this book before picking it up except the title and the author.


*** My Thoughts ***

According to the introduction, this book is a reworking of an old story. If that is true, then it is a story I have never heard of, so I came to this story with no expectations. Wait, that's not true. I "expected" classic Steinbeck ... and unfortunately, that is not what I got.

What I love so much about Steinbeck's other books that I read (EAST OF EDEN, CANNERY ROW, and even THE GRAPES OF WRATH) is the power of his descriptions and the amazing characters he creates. Scenes and images from those books stayed with me long after I read them. I realize that the purpose of this book was different - to convey a deeper truth about the culture of materialism we live in - but all that I love about Steinbeck's writing was missing here; the characters were stereotypical, the setting a mere sketch, and the moral was a constant drum beat throughout the story. To be honest, I was quite disappointed in this book.

I also wasn't impressed with the narrator of this audio book, Frank Muller. According to the package he has won various awards for his work and is a highly respected narrator. His narration just didn't work for me. His reading was overly dramatic, like the way you'd tell a scary story around a campfire at night; it seemed overdone to me.


*** Relation to LOST? ***

I gave this some serious thought and here's what I came up with:

THE PEARL is about the evils of materialism and how it is better to live without money and be happy. On LOST, the survivors of the crash do almost exactly that near the beginning of the show. They realize that they can live pretty good lives despite their circumstances ... until, of course, they meet The Others. And the last we heard, Rose and Bernard continued to embrace their simplified life despite the changes to the island.

After I exhausted my brain coming up with this I headed over to the official LOST book list and here's what I found:
  • The most obvious reference to this book is that there is a Dharma Station called The Pearl. I can't seem to find any relation between the station and the book though.
  • The theme of the book - that money doesn't bring happiness, and that too much money actually brings unhappiness - is exemplified in the the show by Hurley and his rotten luck since winning the lottery. Much of that was featured in the episode "Everybody Hates Hugo" (Season 2, Episode 4).
So I wasn't exactly off base but I wasn't exactly on target either. And DUH! How did I not make the Hurley connection?! Ah well, that's LOST for you!


*** Your Thoughts ***

Are you familiar with the story this book is based on? If so, where did you hear it? Have you read this book? Do you agree with my comparisons to Steinbeck's other books? Chime in with your opinions!

21 comments:

Lenore said...

I read THE PEARL a few years ago and found it extremely depressing. Nice Hurley/LOST connection. I totally see that.

Nan said...

That was a perfect review, Heather. If it were a college paper, it would have gotten an A+. Beautifully written, clear, excellent connections. And a photo of dear Hugo. Who could ask for more? If I ever read The Pearl, it was so long ago I have no memory of it at all. I loved Steinbeck as a girl, and bought some books in the beautiful Centennial Editions a few years ago, but have yet to read them. Only a few more days till LOST!!!!

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

The Pearl is another one of those book that I read when I was too young to remember it. I still have it on my shelf and I look forward to reading it this year. Glad you mentioned what you dd about the audio because I might have been tempted to listen to it.

Michelle said...

I haven't read the book, but I kind of want to play the game where I guess how a book is related to Lost. That sounds fun.

Alyce said...

I haven't read this book, but then I don't read much Steinbeck. I haven't been able to get into Lost, so I don't really have an opinion on how it relates.

Heather J. said...

Lenore - Depressing is right! Let's just hope Hurley has better luck than Keno did ...

Nan - Why thank you! ;) I cannot WAIT until the show starts again - I'm dying to see what happens.

Nicole - It should be a quick read, but honestly? Don't expect too much.

Michelle - I know, right?! I'm having such fun with that part of the LOST Books Challenge. :)

bermudaonion said...

I haven't read it and after your review, I won't be in any hurry to.

Jennifer@ Mrs. Q: Book Addict said...

The Pearl was my first Steinbeck novel, and I fell in love with his writing. His descriptions are amazing, his writing beautiful. Steinbeck remains one of my favorite writers.

Amy said...

I read this a long time ago in school and remember some of the opening lines really clearly...something about wanting something too much you wouldn't get it. and that's about it. :P

Heather J. said...

bermudaonion - I don't blame you one bit!

Jennifer - I agree that his writing is amazing, unfortunately I just didn't see it in this book. :(

Amy - Yeah, that's what Keno's wife is thinking as he's diving for a pearl. Don't bother with a reread, you're not missing much here!

Justin Narin said...

Great review. Thanks.

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Jenny Girl said...

I saw the title and immediately thought of LOST. and that I am way behind on my reading :)
Sorry this book was a disappointment for you, especially since you enjoy Steinbeck so much. I've never read any of his work, although Iplan to this year, so I'll stay away from this one.

Heather J. said...

Justin - Thanks.

Jenny Girl - Go for EAST OF EDEN if you want epic Steinbeck - it is a fantastic book. Or for something a bit lighter, try CANNERY ROW - it is sad, fun, and beautifully written. (And get crackin' on your LOST reading too!) :)

kristentsetsi said...

I had never even heard of this book until now. And, I should be ashamed to say the only Steinbeck books I've read are "The Winter of Our Discontent" (a favorite) and "Of Mice and Men" (eh - not a subject that interested me).

I was excited to see this entry at first, because I thought, "Ooh! Another one to read of the many of his I haven't read!" But I would hate for his thin characters to sully the love I have for the rich people created in "Winter."

Heather J. said...

Kristen - Don't waste your time with this one, but do go read EAST OF EDEN - you will not regret it! Talk about some fantastic characters ... there are ones in EOE that you will never forget. :)

Dana said...

The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden are two of my favorite books, but The Pearl was a disappointment for me as well. I also like your relation of it to lost (less than week until the premiere!)

Heather J. said...

Dana - I'm glad we agree! And I CAN.NOT.WAIT for Lost ... :)

Beth F said...

Now that I'm finally caught up with LOST (as of last night), I can read these posts. I forgot about the Pearl station, but I picked up on the Hurly connection and I think Rose and Bernard have the right idea (of course, they're older than the other survivors).

Heather J. said...

Beth F - Just two more days til LOST!!!

Rebecca Reid said...

I've only read one Steinbeck and I loved it. I was hoping your thoughts on this would be positive. Sorry it was a disappointment!

Heather J. said...

Rebecca - I'd say this isn't typical Steinbeck, but that's just my opinion ...

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