Travels with Charley – John Steinbeck: A Review

Posted 24 September, 2007 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 12 Comments

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Title: Travels With Charley In Search of America
Author: John Steinbeck
Date Finished: September 22, 2007
Pages: 275
Rating: 4/5

In the 1960’s, John Steinbeck felt as though he lost his connection with America, so he set out with is French Poodle, Charley, to rediscover it. He basically traveled in a great loop around the country – beginning with New York across to Washington, down the coast, and through the southern states. Since I have had a bad case of wanderlust recently, this book was great for me!

Along the way, Steinbeck tried to make friends with the locals to get a feel for their particular locale. He did not throw around his name, but he did use Charley shamelessly to get his foot in the door. Steinbeck’s narrative was very endearing to me. I felt he was really honest in what he wanted to say. There were some places that he loved, but others that really irritated him. Overall, at the end of the trip, I’m not sure that he was able to reconnect with America because the country itself is so unconnected in many ways, and I think Steinbeck really mourned this.

In many ways this book is outdated, but I felt that this was some of the charm in the book. I loved how Steinbeck described trailer parks with utter astonishment, it was humorous to hear him talk about traffic in the metropolitan cities and the vastness of Texas (he apparently did not like the state), and he spoke about civil rights issues with passion and fury. I would recommend this book – it is light and other than his tendency at the beginning to skip around from subject to subject every paragraph it was a solid read.

12 Responses to “Travels with Charley – John Steinbeck: A Review”

  1. Stephanie – Thanks; I’ve never read anything by him before, so this was a nice treat. I’m not sure what it is about his other books that “scare” me a little, but if his writing is anything like this book, I think I’ll like his other stuff!

  2. Hi Trish, I love Steinbeck’s work. I have not read Travels with Charley yet so I will have to add it to my tbr. To answer you questions about the back to history challenge yes your books can cross with other challenges, & I would actually suggest alternatives because your taste in books can change a lot in a year. Feel free to customize the challenge to suit your needs, the important thing is that we read not how much & what we read. As long that you are reading books that take place in the past I will count them. Thanks for the interest sorry it took me so long to respond I have been a bit busy this week.

  3. 2 things: Firstly, I love the word “wanderlust” — what a romantic ailment for you to suffer from. :) And, I love that Steinbeck used his dog instead of his fame, that’s quite endearing.

    Anyway the book sounds lovely, although I always find myself getting stuck in the middle when I read Steinbeck… perhaps if it’s “light” as you say I’ll have an easier time with it!

  4. *Shannon – sounds great! thanks for coming by to answer–and there was no delay as I just left my messages yesterday evening.

    *Kristen – yes, it was pretty light reading and I really enjoyed it. But I haven’t read any of his other stuff so I don’t know how to compare…

  5. My father recommended this book to me long ago, but I have yet to read it. Your review is quite encouraging though. I need to pick it up.

  6. cj

    You make this seem like a Steinbeck I’d like. That’s amazing. I’ll have to give it a look-see.


  7. *Kelly – I’ve heard really good things about Steinbeck but just haven’t been interested enough to pick up anything by him. This one, though, was great!

    *Nymeth – Good to hear from you! Yes, this one was very enjoyable.

    *CJ – I really enjoyed this book…especially the perspective on places that I’ve been, lived in, or what to see. Plus its short. ;)

  8. cj

    Short is good these days. My real life has been insane.

    Which, by the way, is my excuse for not commenting more. I’ve been checking my ‘regular’ list of blogs but not taking the time to leave many comments.

    Hopefully that will be changing in the next while.


  9. *CJ – Don’t worry about it–I get a few minutes to blog in the mornings, but not every day. Everyone gets busy!

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