It’s good to have some books you can return to. Books that have a certain atmosphere that’s familiar and that welcome you back. Where have you been all these years? The joy of rereading is picking up all the details again, passages that have a memory attached to them, wondering what on earth made you underline that sentence back then.
Of mice and men was the first book I read by John Steinbeck, now seven years ago. A lot has changed since then, naturally. I remember liking the book, but also finding it difficult. That hasn’t changed. Steinbeck writes warmly, using nature to create atmosphere and people to create plot. There is a timeless quality to Of mice and men – it feels universal or mythical – and perhaps that’s what makes it difficult to get into at first. The story is simple enough: Lennie and George are two labourers who travel around looking for work on farms. They have a dream that drives them, once to own a place of their own and live off the land, but Lennie’s clumsiness always gets them into trouble; simple, honest men, living in hard times. Their fate is set and we know it, but they don’t. With these basic elements Steinbeck makes a story that’s sad but true, tragic but also hopeful. Since it's been published in 1937 Americans have always returned to Of mice and men and so will I.
9 May 2013 (Initially read on 26 April 2006)
Penguin Books, 1994
Originally published 1937