The Winter of our Discontent, by J. Steinbeck

I got a lot of time to spend in public transports these days. I randomly found this novel at home and have decided to bring it with me anytime I was going out. The French version has been printed with a spendid painting by E. Hopper (and not H. as previously said, my mistake), I confess it helped me a lot.

Anyway. John Steinbeck. Probably one of the best American author of the past century. In the last novel of his impressive career, he depicts the life of Ethan Allen Hawley in the not-so quiet little town of New Baytown, NY.

Ethan Allen Hawley comes from a wealthy family who has lost its wealth. Now, instead of enjoying the fortunes from his ancestors’ whaling company, Ethan works for an Italian immigrant as a grocery store clerk. His wife and children badger him in their own ways about making more money and moving up in the world. And this brings Ethan to lower his morals – he plans a bank robbery, a forced suicide, a hostile business takeover, and an affair, all to happen in the span of two weeks.

Steinbeck’s description of this typical East coast, with these small fishermens towns, is absolutely beautiful. He introduces romantism and calm in this environment, and it’s a real pleasure to follow the different characters evolving in this sensation of peace. But above all, the Author perfectly underlines the dichotomy of pretty much all the characters. Ethan Allen Hawley is a masterpiece of duality, extremely jovial with people and at the same time cornered by sadness and impossible ambitions. With his hero, Steinbeck illustrates what we probably all are: a collection of masks that we constantly change.

Pierre K.

Buy John Steinbeck, The Winter of Our Discontent (Amazon.com)

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