The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck audiobook review – California dreaming | John Steinbeck


A mass movement of people driven from their homes by environmental catastrophe and hoping for a fresh start in a new land: there’s a sad familiarity to the events depicted in John Steinbeck’s Pulitzer prize-winning novel from 1939 in which the Joad family, tenant farmers from Oklahoma, are forced to leave their farm due to drought and financial hardship. They set off for California where they have heard there are jobs aplenty, but when they arrive they find thousands of fellow migrants living in desperate poverty. The newcomers are exploited by the rich, abandoned by the authorities, and treated with suspicion and hostility by locals. “Okie use’ ta mean you was from Oklahoma,” laments one Dust Bowl migrant. “Now it means you’re a dirty son-of-a-bitch. Okie means you’re scum. Don’t mean nothing itself, it’s the way they say it.”

Marking 120 years since Steinbeck’s birth, this new recording is narrated by the actor Richard Armitage, whose tone is sturdy but solemn, and who expertly navigates the midwest dialect and the book’s multiple voices. Chief among the protagonists is Tom Joad, the second of the six Joad children, who is newly paroled from prison after a four-year stretch for manslaughter, and shocked to find his family packing up to leave. There is also Ma Joad, determined, dignified and resilient in the face of turmoil; Pa Joad, big-hearted but broken by all that has befallen the family; and Jim Casy, a former preacher and the beating heart of Steinbeck’s book, who challenges injustice at devastating personal cost.

The Grapes of Wrath is available from Penguin Audio, 20hr 58min.

Further listening

Kleptopia: How Dirty Money Is Conquering the World
Tom Burgis, William Collins, 10hr 58mins
The author and journalist narrates his eye-opening investigation exposing a global network of corruption that takes listeners from Kazakhstan and Moscow to London and New York.

Great Circle
Maggie Shipstead, Penguin Audio, 25hr 16min
Cassandra Campbell and Alex McKenna read Shipstead’s Booker-shortlisted novel about an actor who portrays a female aviator and her attempt to fly around the world in 1950.

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