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Summary

Ethan Hawley has lost the spirit of his wealthy forebears, a long line of proud New England sea captains and Pilgrims. Scarred by failure, Ethan works as a grocery clerk in a store his family once owned. But his wife is restless and his teenage children hungry for the material comforts he cannot provide. Then a series of unusual events reignites Ethan's ambition, and he is pitched on to a bold course, where all scruples are put aside.

©1961 John Steinbeck (P)2014 W F Howes Ltd

Critic reviews

"John Steinbeck's last great novel focuses on the theme of success and what motivates men towards it"
"Returns to the high standards of The Grapes of Wrath and to the social themes that made his early work... so powerful" ( Saul Bellow)

What listeners say about The Winter of our Discontent

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An enjoyable listen to one man's world changing

Would you listen to The Winter of our Discontent again? Why?

This was my first real forray into Steinbeck. I realise I perhaps made an odd choice - before beginning I wasn't aware that this was his last novel, and knowing him as a Californian author I was surprised to find it set on the east coast!

The character of Ethan, and other aspects of the novel, reminded me a lot of Willie Loman and Death of a Salesman. The overall subject is the same - how does one man gain and keep respect of his peers and himself in a world where the rules have shifted. If you like Arthur Miller's play, then you will probably enjoy this too.

I found the reader largely engaging, and while the story is relatively slow-paced itself, I didn't feel bogged down at all.

8 people found this helpful

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Thank goodness for Jeff Harding the narrator

I would never have read this book if it hadn't been for my "stalking" of Jeff Harding on Audible
Not my normal genre at all and what a fantastic surprise- made accessible by the narrator

17 people found this helpful

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Worthy Classic.

Everything a Steinbeck novel should be. Big, rich, highly descriptive and Steinbeck's signature perfect pacing. Always plenty to keep interest. Recommended for everyone.

4 people found this helpful

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Read it and Weep

With a wit and sense of humour reminiscent of Chandler, if a little flowery at times, Ethan, sometimes first person, sometimes third, narrates what I’d say is a masterpiece of character observation. Jeff Harding strikes just the right tone.

2 people found this helpful

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Outstanding; soul searching with humour

Grapes of Wrath is one of my favourite books. But I’m not familiar with Steinbeck’s lesser known works. This is outstanding and there’s unexpected humour throughout. It’s a soul searching small town tale, with a choices around right and wrong. Muddled along it take a risk for a better future.

To my surprise, I found this totally gripping. Some 70 years after publication it remains relevant and spellbinding. Miss this gem at your peril.

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Solid book

I'm not sure if this book was just too intellectual for me but I just had a hard time trying to finish it. I liked the way the story carried itself along with the character interactions. I laughed out loud more than a few times. I just had a lot of points in time where I wish I had the book in front of me. Great narrator.

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very enjoyable

A gentle but very thought provoking listen. Stay with it to the end. Takes me back to the type of books you would have analyzed for English exams.

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half and half

I initially found the narrator's voice irritating but I became use to it quickly and it didnt hinder the story. he was able to use different tones for different characters that were distinct enough. the storyline isn't exciting. I enjoyed the story but would struggle to describe actual events to someone. I wouldn't listen again but I would recommend it.

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I had no idea

This story is amazing; twists and turns, descriptions, the jokes and the insights. Such good value to listen to. And the voices! Where on earth does one man find so many voices: just wonderful.

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A must read

well performed and a great read . Steinbeck at his best. A great book of life's ups and downs and written in a way that will always keep you reading

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Profile Image for Ian C Robertson
  • Ian C Robertson
  • 11-05-15

No Son of York

This has been one of my favourite Steinbeck's for a long time, and that is saying something because I love "Of Mice and Men". Alas, this production didn't make me feel good about it and I have come away wondering whether the faith I put in this return to the top tier was well placed. Overall, I think I am more enamored with the story than I was disappointed with the production, so, to borrow from the Bard, "All's Well that End's Well".
Unfortunately this did not start well and I regret to say that it is because Mr Harding's take on Ethan Hawley just didn't gel with my picture of him. He was too slick, more Sienfeld than cynical; more petty than purist. This meant that when it came time to move away from the path of righteousness, the movement was too easy and the rationalisation too trite to make the impact that I think ought to be wrought from a Walter Mitty character that resists his awakening to a cold reality. Put another way, we started in autumn, not summer and the seasons were not different enough.
For all that, I have liked Jeff Harding's readings before (notably, "Matterhorn"), so I guess it is more my personal minds eye that rejects this production's reality, so perhaps don't judge this book by it's reviewer and judge for yourself. It is, as a story, one of Steinbek's very best in my opinion. It has a wit the earlier novels do not have, a modern outlook that is easier for us to relate to than say the depression years, but the same level of moral exactness that I love, where his hero is just a person, neither perfect no evil, but just doing their best. It would be a pity to miss out on that because I was wrong about the way I heard it in my head. For that I have given it three stars, but if I was as honest as Etan ultimately might be, then this is a two.