Review: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

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I read this book as part of the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2016 – #23 Read a play.

I didn’t have to ‘do’ Of Mice and Men at school, although almost everyone else I know did. When I asked them about their thoughts on the book, most struggled to remember the details. ‘Someone gets framed for a murder?’ my partner said, sort-of-half-remembering part of the plot. Uh, not really sweetie. Nice to see that a classic of 20th century literature made such a lasting impression on you.

I didn’t really think that this short novel ‘qualified’ as a play but in the introduction to my copy it says that Steinbeck rewrote the novel in the year that it was published (1937) for performance on Broadway (although weirdly, he never saw it performed). He also had to rewrite the entire manuscript after his puppy shredded his only copy, so it’s a miracle that the story was published in the first place.

After reading the book (play) I can completely see why it is taught in schools. The main plot centres around intolerance of people who are a bit ‘different’, which is sadly still relevant 80 years on. I found the text quite easy to read despite the difficult themes of despair and hopelessness that are dominant in the script, but this is simply down to good writing and not a simplistic storyline.

To say that I enjoyed reading the play is not exactly true – I found it quite depressing and the ending is truly horrific. However, I found the story really engaging and I really responded to the characters. This really is a must read book for teenagers upwards.

Overall rating: 9/10.

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