by John Steinbeck (1947)
There’s not much I can add to the vast collection of commentary and criticism that this novella has (deservedly) attracted. I’ll just say that it’s supremely tense, evocative, and emotionally draining.
Knowing where this is going from the outset doesn’t at all detract from the hellacious journey. For that we have to thank 1) Steinbeck’s economical prose, which deeply paints complex, memorable characters in very little space, and 2) the masterful rhythm, which expertly ratchets up the tension toward a devastating climax and denouement. It’s virtually inexcusable not to read such a short exemplar of North-American literature.