Carol and John Steinbeck: Portrait of a Marriage

Carol and John Steinbeck: Portrait of a Marriage

by Susan Shillinglaw

In Steinbeck’s formative years, she was his mainstay, his partner, his inspiration See more details below


In Steinbeck’s formative years, she was his mainstay, his partner, his inspiration 

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
As portrayed by San Jose State University English professor and Steinbeck expert Shillinglaw (A Journey into Steinbeck's California), John Steinbeck's first wife, Carol Henning Steinbeck, was witty, gifted, and fiercely practical. In addition, she loved the limelight and was adept at grand gesture. Her husband, though driven, tended to be moody and self-absorbed. Carol, according to this impressive biography, was also the driving force behind John's political conscience, and assisted him with The Grapes of Wrath ("To Carol who willed it," the dedication reads in part). But the wealth and fame brought by the novel's success also brought disappointment, estrangement, and divorce. "In another era," Shillinglaw writes with eloquence and grace, " might have run a small company, shaped something larger than John into a force for good but she could not or would not imagine great things for herself." In later life, Carol Steinbeck took offence at comparisons to Zelda Fitzgerald, but like Zelda, she has been blessed with a terrific biographer. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
"Shillinglaw contends the Pulitzer Prize–winning Grapes of Wrath is their 'shared creation.' She argues that Carol was a much larger influence on the novelist’s life and work than has been previously acknowledged. In this lively, absorbing biography, she describes John’s and Carol’s families, the impact of friends and travel, and the creative process that culminated in John’s writing. Carol left few written records or letters, thus her life is portrayed here from previously unavailable scrapbooks, photographs, and poetry. . . . Recommended for Steinbeck enthusiasts as well as readers interested in 20th-century American novelists." Library Journal, Nov. 13, 2013

"Impressive . . . Shillinglaw writes with eloquence and grace. . . . Carol Steinbeck . . . has been blessed with a terrific biographer." Publishers Weekly

"Scholars and fans of John Steinbeck are fortunate to have two fine biographies available—Jackson Benson’s (1990) and Jay Parini’s (1995). . . .  And now another indispensable source can be placed beside these classics, Susan Shillinglaw’s Carol and John Steinbeck: Portrait of a Marriage published by the University of Nevada Press." — Tom Barden, The Steinbeck Review, Fall 2013

"Nobody knows more or writes better about the life of Steinbeck than Susan Shillinglaw . . . Her superb scholarship and elegant style are equally evident in Carol and John Steinbeck: Portrait of a Marriage, the biography of Steinbeck's marriage to Carol Henning, a Jazz Age rebel with a Great Depression conscience. As Shillinglaw observes, John and Carol were no Scott and Zelda. But their dramatic story book reads like a novel — unfortunately, one with a similarly unhappy ending." William Ray, Steinbeck Now

“A fascinating story that needs to be made known widely . . . Not just the story of Carol and her relationship to John, but a new and revealing look at Steinbeck himself. So much is new here, and the manuscript pushes so deep into the lives of the Steinbecks, that it might well become the primary biography of that period.” —Jackson Benson, author of John Steinbeck, Writer: A Biography

"Shillinglaw's primary research makes this book impressive, and her writing is wonderfully clear and effective. A book that will appeal both to sophisticated scholars and the general public. I loved this book!" Melody Graulich, editor of Western American Literature

"Fascinating as it lays open the background of two intriguing personalities" New York Journal of Books

"Shillinglaw — resident scholar at the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas and professor of English at San Jose State — draws a compelling portrait of this intelligent modern woman." San Jose Mercury News

"The Grapes of Wrath grabs the reader with a singular energy that makes it easy to miss the dedication: 'To CAROL who willed this book.' The Carol in caps is Carol Steinbeck, who not only picked the title, but also rode herd on the manuscript, the research and the hard years of creation in a rare kind of artistic synergy. . . . . In Carol and John Steinbeck: Portrait of a Marriage, Susan Shillinglaw fleshes out the book’s dedication and gives Carol Henning Steinbeck her full due. This strong-willed, opinionated, forceful, sharp-witted woman was more than just a supportive wife, more than a repressed Zelda Fitzgerald: 'Her story is, in effect, his. His greatest triumph, hers,' Shillinglaw argues." Michael S. Gant,

"As biographer Susan Shillinglaw reminds us in her insightful, important, and necessary new work, there was a time when the man who wrote The Grapes of Wrath was a mere struggling writer; an acknowledged talent, yes, but always on the edge of failure with an uncertain future. Thus we have Carol and John Steinbeck: Portrait of a Marriage. And in this new book, Shillinglaw makes a powerful case for the idea that Steinbeck’s first wife had everything to do with his ability to persevere, to create a body of work that drew notice to his burgeoning talent, and to carry on despite all the pressures (fiscal, psychological, and otherwise) that plague serious writers attempting to emerge. . . . This wonderful new biography offers plenty of echoes of Steinbeck, but its real value is in restoring to memory the voice, style, and persona of Carol Henning Steinbeck." M. J. Moore in Neworld Review, vol. 7 no. 48

"A combination of biography, history, psychology and literary observation, this reads, too, like a novel. Be assured that you will want to read again the Steinbeck that you remember as well as his work that you missed. You will wish you had known Carol Henning, but reading this, you will possibly consider her now a friend." Phil Bowhay, Monterey County Herald

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Product Details

University of Nevada Press
Publication date:
Western Literature Series Series
Edition description:
1st Edition
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)

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