Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Of Mice & Men by John Steinbeck

Of Mice & Men
by John Steinbeck

Summary:  The compelling story of two outsiders striving to find their place in an unforgiving world.

Drifters in search of work, George and his simple minded friend Lennie have nothing in the world except each other and a dream--a dream that one day they will have some land of their own. Eventually they find work on a ranch in California's Salinas Valley, but their hopes are doomed as Lennie, struggling against extreme cruelty, misunderstanding and feelings of jealousy becomes a victim of his own strength.
I always think that I should read more classics, and then I read ones like this and it reminds me why I don't.

Here's the thing... I completely understand that books like this are a product of their time, I respect their literary merit and the influence they've had on people and literature -- but that doesn't necessarily translate into me wanting to read them or enjoying the experience of reading them.

This book wasn't bad. It wasn't good either. I finished it and felt relatively unmoved -- I didn't have any strong feelings towards it, be it positive or negative. And I should have, because of the topics it dealt with (racism, mental illness, euthanasia, people wanting to escape their suffering and getting through the day by dreaming of a better hand than they've been dealt, etc.).

I was indifferent to the characters, was part of the problem -- it was way too short to make me really care about any of them, which made it difficult for the emotions the book should have made me feel really be stirred up. It ended on a strong note, the last scene and the way it mirrored an earlier scene in the story... It was well done, but lacked the emotional impact it should have had.

This is the kind of story that I probably would've enjoyed studying. I enjoyed studying The Pearl by Steinbeck...but it's just not something I'd pick up if I wanted to actually have a good reading experience or feel emotionally invested in a story. It's one of those books that can be picked apart and you learn to love it for the meaning you find when you analyse it.

If I'm rating the book based on literary merit, it'd be somewhere in the 4 star zone but going purely by how I felt reading it and after I finished it, I'd rate it 2.5 or 3 stars out of 5. I'm hoping I'll have more luck with Steinbeck's longer works, like East of Eden.


note: I know that not all classics are like this, there are some that I love for both their literary value as well as just being genuinely good novels, ones like this one just aren't like that for me.

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