Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck

 Reviewed by Carolyn Wood

Anyone who has read John Steinbeck’s classics such as East of Eden or Grapes of Wrath will be surprised by this light hearted romp through the 50 territories that encompass the United States of America.  John Steinbeck, a product of the early 1900′s, decides in his later years to embark on a cross country adventure with his dog, Charley.  Charley is a large gray poodle who grows on the reader as does the author’s view of the people and countryside that sparkle in the USA. I was surprised by the author’s decision to travel with his dog for a companion rather than his beloved wife.  It is interesting to note the fondness John has for Charley as the companions ride along the open roadways. 

The journey is not always smooth and I was saddened by the personal account of traveling through the southern states during the 1960′s.  Quality prose cannot obscure the societal upheaval during the civil rights movement. Growing pains of the author and the country are evident as the excursion draws to a close. 

John Steinbeck has a talent for developing rich imagery and taking the reader along with him regardless of the setting of the work. I find Steinbeck’s description of the California redwoods leaves me longing to book my summer vacation as I type.

One Response to “Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck”

  1. Carolyn Says:

    I have been researching your question about Travel with Charley and have come to the conclusion that his books “Travel with Charley? and “Travel with Charley: In Search of America? are the same book. Travel with Charley is the original title of the work from 1962. Do you think that you could have felt differently about the book because of how old you were when you read it or that your mom talked to you and shared the story when you were young? Good memories of sharing ideas about books can make reading even more fun.

    I remember reading The Secret Language by Ursula Nordstrom when I was a child with such excitement that I recall using parts of the “secret language? in my house with my mom and sisters. I begged my mom to send me to boarding school so I could experience adventures like those of Victoria North. I even remember getting in big trouble for asking my mom to be more like Miss Mossman, the housemother in the story. I later read the story with my own daughters, who did not have the same response to the story as I had. Maybe I had built the story up too much, or perhaps they needed to find favorite titles of their own.

    Getting back to Steinbeck, I am a big fan of his work. My favorite title is East of Eden. I am drawn to the good vs evil struggle in the novel. I always enjoy the clarity that Steinbeck puts into his works when he describes a specific time and place for action. In East of Eden, I could smell the lettuce as the railroad car doors were opening.

    You are right about Charley’s color being described as blue gray, not gray. One of my coworkers has a greyhound that is a blue color. You can see him here . I think Charley must have had a coat similar to Blue Boy’s.

    Thanks for pointing out why the author traveled with Charley – “I can understand why the author’s decision was to travel with his dog for a companion rather than his beloved wife. With his wife he would be not able to think ponderously for writing his novel so he needed a dog that would not interfere his ponder while travelling. I hadn’t thought of that, and now I think you are right about why he chose to travel with Charley!

    It is so good to hear from another Steinbeck fan! Do you have a favorite in the list of great books that Mr. Steinbeck wrote?