Thursday, February 27, 2014

John Steinbeck's 112th Birthday and The Moon is Down

John Steinbeck

I confess I love John Steinbeck's writing style, but find many of his stories depressing. I first encountered Steinbeck as a child when I read "The Red Pony." Not a happy story for a horse-loving kid! In high school, I read "The Pearl," and watched "Of Mice and Men."  That sort of cured me of Steinbeck until adulthood. When I saw an interview with a Steinbeck descendant explaining that the author usually wrote about a character making a pivotal choice, I could at last appreciate his skill.

While browsing shelves at the library recently, I came across a slim Steinbeck novel with the intriguing title: "The Moon is Down." This short book was printed during World War 2 and is Steinbeck's salute to democracy and the power of the individual. It was written as a wartime morale booster. While the book received mixed reviews in the United States, it was popular in Norway, Denmark, Holland, Italy, and much of war-torn Europe. Intrigued with this introduction, I picked up the book and took it home to read.

Steinbeck's novel tells the story of an unspecified town occupied by the Germans during war. It opens with the arrival of the occupying force. Steinbeck's characters are well-drawn, and represent the complexities of individual reactions in such circumstances. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Near the end of the novel, as the occupying force wonders if they have defeated the resistance, one of the townsfolk observes "....but we are a free people; we have as many heads as we have people, and in a time of need leaders pop up among us like mushrooms."

I think there are people in countries today for whom these words would resonate. In that respect, "The Moon is Down" is timeless.

In honor of Steinbeck's 112th birthday, what is your favorite Steinbeck novel?


  1. I read this book ... but I don't remember too much about it. I like Steinbeck's style, but haven't read enough of his books to have a favorite yet.

  2. I Love Steinbeck, but I really have to be in the best of moods to read him, knowing full well I won't be after I have finished the book. I have to say though that I loved The Grapes of Wrath!