Thursday, June 2, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck


Having finally finished Anna Karenina after 5 long months, I needed my next book to be something short.  A friend recommended Of Mice and Men.  A classic and only 112 pages, it was just what I needed and I'm glad I read it.

ABOUT THE BOOK (From Amazon):

They are an unlikely pair: George is "small and quick and dark of face"; Lennie, a man of tremendous size, has the mind of a young child. Yet they have formed a "family," clinging together in the face of lonelinss and alienation. Laborers in California's dusty vegetable fields, they hustle work when they can, living a hand-to-mouth existence. For George and Lennie have a plan: to own an acre of land and a shack they can call their own. When they land jobs on a ranch in the Salinas Valley, the fulfillment of their dream seems to be within their grasp. But even George cannot guard Lennie from the provocations of a flirtatious woman, nor predict the consequences of Lennie's unswerving obedience to the things George taught him.

MY REVIEW:

Published in 1937, Of Mice and Men tells the tragic story of George Milton and Lennie Small, two displaced migrant ranch workers during the Great Depression in California.  George and Lennie have an unusual bond and travel together, George taking care of Lennie who is mentally disabled.  George's life would be much simpler without Lennie, and yet he sticks with him, even fleeing with him from the last ranch after Lennie was accused of rape.  George knows Lennie didn't mean any harm; he only likes to touch soft things like mice, rabbits and puppies (and in this case, a girl's dress).  Unfortunately his feeble mind and brute strength are often a deadly combination for many of these creatures he loves.  The girl was unharmed, but frightened and cried rape.  The two men escaped and moved on to another ranch where they found work and dreamed of buying their own farm someday where they could "live off the fat of the land."

"The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft agley." (The best laid schemes of mice and men / Go oft awry.) - a line in a poem by Robert Burns which inspired the title.

Steinbeck's writing is simple and descriptive.  The characters draw you in to the story.  Towards the end I found myself reacting out loud to what was happening and found myself nearly in tears.  The ending is incredibly sad and yet the only way it could have ended.

I highly recommend this book.