Book Review: The Pearl by John Steinbeck


Like his father and grandfather before him, Kino is a poor diver, gathering pearls from the gulf beds that once brought great wealth to the Kings of Spain and now provide Kino, Juana, and their infant son with meager subsistence. Then, on a day like any other, Kino emerges from the sea with a pearl as large as a sea gull’s egg, as “perfect as the moon.” With the pearl comes hope, the promise of comfort and of security….

A story of classic simplicity, based on a Mexican folk tale, The Pearl explores the secrets of man’s nature, the darkest depths of evil, and the luminous possibilities of love.

John Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962. You’d expect some hefty volumes with his signature on them, but the truth is that his most memorable works are quite short.

John Steinbeck strenuously believed in the art of writing; his phrases are perfect, no clumsiness, no lazy words. In order to write The Pearl, he did his research, he did the work, he gave his very best. But this is not the book that earned him his award. The Pearl is an almost mystic experience ( being inspired by a story that was being passed around town).

The Pearl is difficult to define. It’s Steinbeck’s equivalent of Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. It’s a simple story, yet the universe it describes alters one’s soul. It offers insight into the realities of human nature, the bitter truth of our souls.

Great books expose us to ourselves. It’s more than entertainment.

The Pearl is also a story of hope. Hope against adversity, against fear, against cruelty.

15 thoughts on “Book Review: The Pearl by John Steinbeck

  1. I am a huge fan of Steinbeck. The Pearl is not one of my favorites, but it has it’s place. It is a good comparison to The Old Man and the Sea. I do think Of Mice and Men, of his shorter books, is the best. You are right, though: “his phrases are perfect, no clumsiness, no lazy words.” He was a great writer. Thanks for this post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree; I read The Grapes Of Wrath in a high school English class, and around that time I also read East of Eden. But the one I’d come back to for a re-read is The Pearl. It’s simply beautiful.


    1. East of Eden is also a masterpiece. Not the kind of book one re-reads, but a true masterpiece. I read it in just one day. Couldn’t put it down. I can’t even describe what it was that I liked so much about it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one. . . . Humans are caught—in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too—in a net of good and evil. . . . There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well—or ill?”

        Liked by 1 person

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