This was a short novel, but full of rich characters and a lot of feeling crammed into it’s relatively few pages. Unfortunately it’s a tragedy and left me feeling terribly sad. It’s a story of friendship and dreams and misunderstandings. I knew from the outset that something terrible was going to happen and it did. What was awful, was the terrible thing occurred at the peak of hope…just when our characters thought they were getting a chance to make something better of their lives. Bummer. Yes…great writing, full characters who I loved and got frustrated with, but a sad and somewhat hopeless story.
However, in the introduction I stumbled across this little gem from Steinbeck which was apparently quoted from a journal entry of his in 1938.
“In every bit of honest writing in the world there is a base theme. Try to understand men, if you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love. There are shorter means, many of them. There is writing promoting social change, writing punishing injustice, writing in celebration of heroism, but always that base theme. Try to understand each other.”
– John Steinbeck, journal entry 1938.
It struck me because it explains in part why I read and why I think it’s important for people to read. It doesn’t really matter if it is fiction or non-fiction. The point is that in reading you can put yourself in someone else’s shoes. The great power of imagination allows us to know what it feels like to be someone else. Once you imagine yourself as someone else, or in their circumstances, then understanding comes and hopefully eventually compassion. Understanding others is good for the world.