The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
In some of the most harrowing scenes ever written in modern literature, Upton Sinclair vividly depicted factory life in Chicago in the first years of the twentieth century. The horrors of the slaughterhouse, their barbarous working conditions… the crushing poverty, the disease, and the despair - he revealed all through the eyes of Jurgis Rudkus, a young immigrant who came to the New World to build a home for himself and his family.
Sinclair’s writing style is somewhat dense, some of his characters flat and plot points improbable. But at the same time, it’s interesting and rife with scandals and insights into life in the early twentieth century. Sinclair is an expert at making every misfortune that falls Jurgis and his family personal to the reader, even if we don’t live in the early 1900s.
Parts of this book had me on the edge of my seat, praying for Jurgis’ life right along with him. However, towards the end (after chapter 28 or so), Sinclair deviated from his story of the stockyards and tyrannical packers to talk politics and Socialism. The last few chapters read more like propaganda pamphlets than a novel, and Jurgis actually has very little to do in them besides listen to long political speeches and debates. Up until that point, though, Sinclair kept me interested in every paragraph, and I enjoyed his book.
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As Simple as Snow