The Long Valley / John Steinbeck

Steinbeck published his first novel in 1929 and followed with two others in 1932 and 1933. These books did not sell particularly well nor did they garner favorable reviews. The author had reached a point where his writing career seemed likely to evaporate due to lack of success. At this critical juncture, he moved back to California to serve as a caregiver for his mother who had suffered a debilitating stroke. In desperate need of money, Steinbeck turned to writing the short stories that make up The Long Valley, a compilation published in 1938. They show a young author coming into his own as he begins to write with a clear geographical identity. These stories are set in the Salinas Valley of California, the area where he was born and raised. Their themes foreshadow the topics of his later classic novels: the struggle of dirt poor farmers to survive when pitted against the elements, the tensions between town and country, and the plight of the common laborer to earn a living wage. Most of the stories in this collection are outstanding, with delightful plot twists that take the reader by surprise. Some are funny, others dark, but all show an artist stretching the boundaries of his craft. If one has not read his work, this book will serve as great introduction to what later made Steinbeck a Nobel Prize winner. For those who have read and enjoyed his novels, these stories will provide a glimpse of their genesis.


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