Have I read this before: Yup, up in Vancouver.
Review: Want to feel depressed, disgusted, discouraged, and disturbed? This is your book.
Seriously, this ranks up there as one of the most depressing books I’ve ever read. It follows Jurgis, a Yugoslavian immigrant, as he and his family try to “make it” in Chicago during the early 1900s. The book opens with Jurgis getting married to Ona, and that’s about where the happies stop.
Jurgis gets a job in the meat-packing industry and basically faces tragedy after tragedy after tragedy throughout the whole book. Not only do we get the horrible details of what the meat-packing industry was like for workers back then, but Sinclair also details how impossibly difficult it was for immigrant workers to even keep the most basic of jobs because of how unsafe the whole industry was. And many got screwed out of reasonable rent/housing because of greedy landlords and the language barrier.
This is a hard book to read, man. Not because of the way it’s written or anything like that—it’s just depressing as all hell. Which was one of Sinclair’s main points in writing it. He wanted to show how terrible it was for immigrant workers during that time.
So read it. But make sure you’ve got your Zoloft ready.
Favorite part: God, how can you have a favorite part of this book? I suppose the very detailed descriptions of the working conditions.
The hands of these men would be criss- crossed with cuts, until you could no longer pretend to count them or to trace them. They would have no nails, – they had worn them off pulling hides; their knuckles were swollen so that their fingers spread out like a fan…and as for the other men, who worked in tank rooms full of steam, and in some of which there were open vats near the level of the floor, their peculiar trouble was that they fell into the vats; and when they were fished out, there was never enough of them left to be worth exhibiting, – sometimes they would be overlooked for days, till all but the bones of them had gone out to the world as Durham’s Pure Leaf Lard!
Rating: 6/10 (just because it’s sooooo depressing)