Chosen by Karen Howlett of Cornflower books
I loved this book. The lilting cadence and gentle rhythm of Steinbeck's voice is both soothing and stimulating to the ear, his smart, wise, respectful and far-sighted reflections make him the perfect observer, and it is pure pleasure to travel with him, to see America through his keen eyes and to see him, too, for this is a very personal narrative and a sharp self-portrait.
But the title is crucial, for this is "Travels with Charley", and Charley the French poodle is the perfect companion and foil for Steinbeck. I loved their ' conversations', the accommodations made to suit both gentlemen's needs and temperaments, and though there are some anxious moments, thankfully all is well.
As the two travel the United States, the road spools out in characterful, considered prose. There are memorable encounters with people (including an appalling incident of racism) and scenes of deep engagement with the natural world; it's a compelling mix, and one which may well inspire the reader to go in search of America for themselves, or at least to discover or return to Steinbeck's novels.
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