Sweet Thursday, John Steinbeck

I just finished this one this morning. Utterly, utterly brilliant. I read Cannery Row a while ago and bought Sweet Thursday a while ago too. Since the bairns came along, my books tend to be consumed in audio fashion rather than in the more tangible paper form. As we were travelling to Scotland and back recently and would be spending time in a B&B, I thought I would take a book along. I grabbed this one off my shelf and was hooked right from the start.

It’s hard to describe why this is so good. Being blessed with a poor memory, I really don’t recall much of what happened in Cannery Row. I do recall how much I enjoyed it though, and having forgotten its plot didn’t mar my enjoyment of Sweet Thursday at all (it’s a sequel, in case you didn’t get the connection).

The plot is simple: it’s a love story. Not much else to it than that at the plot level. It’s at the writing level that it really breathes. The characters are wonderfully crafted and the book is full of depth without seeming deep. There’s a whole bunch of philosophy in the book and it will certainly warrant a second read. Although it’s set a million miles from where I grew up, both in geographical and temporal terms, it reminds me of just that. It could quite easily be me and my pals from back in the day if we were still in the same little town and had never ‘settled down’.

Doc went on, “Let me put it this way: there is nothing I can do. They say of an amputee that he remembers his leg. Well, I remember this girl. I am not whole without her. I am not alive without her. When she was with me I was more alive than I have ever been, and not only when she was pleasant either. Even when we were fighting I was whole. At the time I didn’t realize how important it was, but I do now. I am not a dope. I know that if I should win her I’ll have many horrible times. Over and over, I’ll wish I’d never seen her. But I also know that if I fail I’ll never be a whole man. I’ll live a gray half-life, and I’ll mourn for my lost girl every hour of the rest of my life. As thoughtful reptiles you will wonder, ‘Why not wait? Look further! There are better fish in the sea!’ But you are not involved. Let me tell you that to me not only are there no better fish, there are no other fish in the sea at all. The sea is lonely without this fish. Put that in your pipe and smoke it!”

That was Doc talking to his rattlesnakes.

As I said, the book made me think of my pals so I just ordered Cannery Row and sent it to one of those pals, the one that I think would enjoy it the most. I really should go back and reread it but I’ve got a borrowed John Le Carré book to get through for now, but Cannery Row is next up in my actual-book list.

October 2020

D’you know what? I think I’ll go and read this again. It’ll mean a trip into the loft to hunt through my tubs, but it’s time. Just got to find the pole to get the ladders down first. Wish me luck!