Cannery Row, Paperback Book
5 out of 5 (1 rating)


In the din and stink that is Cannery Row a colourful blend of misfits - gamblers, whores, drunks, bums and artists - survive side by side in a jumble of adventure and mischief.

Lee Chong, the astute owner of the well-stocked grocery store, is also the proprietor of the Palace Flophouse that Mack and his troupe of good-natured 'boys' call home.

Dora runs the Bear Flag Restaurant with clockwork efficiency and a generous heart, and Doc, secreted away in his home at Western Biological Laboratories, is the fount of all wisdom.

Packed with invention and ramshackle joie de vivre, Cannery Row is Steinbeck's high-spirited tribute to his native California.


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Cannery Row is the third Steinbeck novel I’ve read in succession, and for me it stands out as the finest; quite simply I’ve never been more captivated by a fictional place, or its characters, than I have been whilst reading this novel.Cannery Row centres on life upon a small strip of largely dilapidated land situated next to a sardine cannery in Monterey Bay. It’s the 1930s, the time of the Great Depression, and the story follows the daily interactions between the mainly down-trodden residents. These residents (all of whom symbolically represent various class structures in society) are primarily comprised of: Lee Chong, the Chinese grocer, Mac and 'the boys' who reside in a ‘refurbished’ storage hut loving christened the Palace Flop-house, Doc who runs the marine laboratory, and Dora, the owner of the Bear Flag restaurant, which in actuality is a house of ill-repute.Given Mr. Steinbeck’s incredible talent for creating remarkable characters, and settings (something which I’ve discovered in ALL of the his books that I’ve read), I’m not surprised I’m so enamoured with Cannery Row, there’s just something so magical about each and every one of them. This is the first novel I’ve finished where the characters, and the place, have carried on living in my head; out of nowhere I suddenly begin wondering how Doc’s getting on in his laboratory, or whether Mac and the boys have managed to get up on their luck, if Mr. Chong is still in his sentinel position in his shop, behind the cigar counter, or if Dora’s place is busy or not.I have to say though, that I found no real story behind Cannery Row. As I found with other Steinbeck novels, the onus of the story is all about the characters and how they interact with one another, rather than any hugely engaging plot. The lack of plot should not put anyone off reading Cannery Row though. What story there is, is perfectly constructed to both engage the reader, and to provide the ‘props’ and setting for a level of sublime character interaction. In that respect, the story can be viewed as a work of absolute genius, and in my mind it is. Another thing that Cannery Row demonstrated beautifully to me, is how talented Mr. Steinbeck is at making something stunning out of the ordinary, especially when describing surrounding scenery. His description of an empty weed-covered lot, makes it sound as though he describing the Garden of Eden, and of particular magnificence is his description of what he calls ‘pearl time’, the time of day when night ends but the sun has not yet begun rising. It is during this ‘magical time’ that ‘weeds are a brilliant green’, ‘the corrugated iron of the canneries glows with the pearly lucence’ and the cats ‘drip over the fences and slither like syrup over the ground’. Magnificent!!I think you know by now then, that I LOVE Cannery Row and as such I wholeheartedly encourage you to read it, if you haven’t done so already. I’ve mentioned that the place and the characters have gone on ‘living in my head’, and if that isn’t testament to the power of this novel, then I don’t know what is.

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