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Cannery Row #2

Sweet Thursday

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In Monterey, on the California coast, Sweet Thursday is what they call the day after Lousy Wednesday, which is one of those days that are just naturally bad. Returning to the scene of Cannery Row, the weedy lots and junk heaps and flophouses of Monterey, John Steinbeck once more brings to life the denizens of a netherworld of laughter and tears from Fauna, new headmistress of the local brothel, to Hazel, a bum whose mother must have wanted a daughter.

249 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1954

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About the author

John Steinbeck

959 books21.8k followers
John Ernst Steinbeck Jr. (1902-1968) was an American writer. He wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Grapes of Wrath, published in 1939, and the novella, Of Mice and Men, published in 1937. In all, he wrote twenty-five books, including sixteen novels, six non-fiction books and several collections of short stories.

In 1962, Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Steinbeck grew up in the Salinas Valley region of California, a culturally diverse place of rich migratory and immigrant history. This upbringing imparted a regionalistic flavor to his writing, giving many of his works a distinct sense of place.

Steinbeck moved briefly to New York City, but soon returned home to California to begin his career as a writer. Most of his earlier work dealt with subjects familiar to him from his formative years. An exception was his first novel Cup of Gold which concerns the pirate Henry Morgan, whose adventures had captured Steinbeck's imagination as a child.

In his subsequent novels, Steinbeck found a more authentic voice by drawing upon direct memories of his life in California. Later, he used real historical conditions and events in the first half of 20th century America, which he had experienced first-hand as a reporter.

Steinbeck often populated his stories with struggling characters; his works examined the lives of the working class and migrant workers during the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. His later body of work reflected his wide range of interests, including marine biology, politics, religion, history, and mythology.

One of his last published works was Travels with Charley, a travelogue of a road trip he took in 1960 to rediscover America. He died in 1968 in New York of a heart attack, and his ashes are interred in Salinas.

Seventeen of his works, including The Grapes of Wrath (1940), Cannery Row (1945), The Pearl (1947), and East of Eden (1952), went on to become Hollywood films, and Steinbeck also achieved success as a Hollywood writer, receiving an Academy Award nomination for Best Story in 1944 for Alfred Hitchcock's Lifeboat.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,173 reviews
Profile Image for Vit Babenco.
1,462 reviews3,611 followers
September 15, 2021
In Sweet Thursday – as he earlier did in Tortilla Flat and Cannery Row John Steinbeck, in a jolly way, romanticizes living on the fringes of society.
In Cannery Row, there are two monumental establishments: Doc’s Laboratory and Fauna’s whorehouse…
Failing to complete his biological research Doc feels despondent and lonely…
Doc was more than first citizen of Cannery Row. He was healer of the wounded soul and the cut finger. Strongly entrenched in legality though he was, he found himself constantly edged into infringements by the needs of his friends, and anyone could hustle him for a buck without half trying. When trouble came to Doc it was everybody’s trouble.
What was Doc’s trouble? Even he didn’t know. He was deeply, grievingly unhappy. For hours on end he sat at his desk with a yellow pad before him and his needle-sharp pencils lined up.

A new unhappy girl comes to town and she finds her pied-à-terre in Fauna’s brothel…
When a girl named Suzy got off the Greyhound bus, she looked up and down the street, fixed her lipstick, then lifted her beat-up suitcase and headed for the Golden Poppy Restaurant. Suzy was a pretty girl with a flat nose and a wide mouth. She had a good figure, was twenty-one, five-feet-five, hair probably brown (dyed blond), brown cloth coat, rabbit-skin collar, cotton print dress, brown calf shoes (heel taps a little run over), scuff on the right toe. She limped slightly on her right foot.

Sweet Thursday is a story of an unusual conspiracy… It is a very special conspiracy – it’s exclusive purpose is to do a good deed…
Kindness, when it doesn’t misfire, can achieve much better results than wickedness.
Profile Image for Lisa.
991 reviews3,321 followers
April 3, 2019
Dear Mack and the boys in Palace Flophouse!

I can’t tell you how grateful I am for the advice you gave the author in the prologue. You were entirely right, and helped him write a masterpiece! After all, who would know better than you how to describe the intricate balance of talk, action and hooptedoodle, and chapters and settings and characters that form the unforgettable microcosm of Cannery Row?

Uninformed people might get the notion that Cannery Row is a hopeless dump filled with uneducated tricksters, bums, whores and criminals. But that is not true at all. Cannery Row is a place where people care for each other, help out, throw parties, try to cheer each other up when they are depressed. They fight for their right to their share of love, peace and happiness, and of course they suffer. For they are humans. First-rate feeling, acting, living, cheating, drinking, meddling humans.

Starting with good intentions and ambitions, they screw up most of their projects, and ruin themselves and each other in the process, but they NEVER give up caring for Cannery Row and its inhabitants, and trying to do things better next time despite repeated disastrous results.
Sometimes that means throwing a masquerade party to raffle off the Palace Flophouse, and a collective effort to get Doc married. Sometimes it means breaking an arm as an act of compassion, and sometimes it means faking a fake horoscope to relieve a poor hero’s anxiety over the burden that he’s destined to become the President of The United States Of America.

If Doc and Suzy had not ended up with each other against all odds, they would have broken the hearts of Joseph and Mary, Fauna, Mack and the boys, and especially Hazel, who had to rise to unbelievable heights of thinking to solve Doc’s problem.

Whoever can follow the scene where Mack emergency-teaches Suzy how to drive a car with chalk drawn on the floor without laughing and crying, has not got the Cannery Row spirit. Whoever manages not to burst out in bitter laughter when Mack and the boys hand over the gift for Doc, the biggest TELESCOPE in the catalogue, has no heart for the creation of our father who art in nature, as quoted in Cannery Row, the prequel to Sweet Thursday:

“Our Father who art in nature, who has given the gift of survival to the coyote, the common brown rat, the English sparrow, the house fly and the moth, must have a great and overwhelming love for no-goods and blots-on-the-town and bums, and Mack and the boys. Virtues and graces and laziness and zest. Our Father who art in nature.”

What does it matter that it was a MICROSCOPE Doc needed? After all, Steinbeck manages to link the macro cosmos - as seen in a telescope - to the miniature world of Monterey by zooming in the cosmic microscope on the tiny, dusty street of Cannery Row. He re-creates the nature of the whole world in a bitter-sweet, hilarious tale of heroic bums and loving hookers.

This is Steinbeck at his best! From first to last page, I enjoyed every toss and turn of the story. Steinbeck can make a literary home of anything, just like Suzy can create a room for herself in a boiler!

And it is with bittersweet melancholy that I join Mack in his final, caring statement, closing the novel with a compliment for Hazel, the unthinking bum with the biggest heart of all:

“I think you’d of made a hell of a president,” he said.
Profile Image for Brina.
933 reviews4 followers
December 18, 2017
Over the course of this year I have discovered an appreciation for American master story tellers. I have noted in reviews that some of the books assigned to high school children may not be age appropriate and that one gets a deeper appreciation for some of these books by reading them through adult eyes. It is in this regard that I have read Capote, Hemingway, and Steinbeck during this calendar year. A month ago, I found myself enjoying Steinbeck's Cannery Row, only to discover in some comments to the review that he had written a sequel to this classic. My interest piqued, I made it a point to read this sequel before the end of the year, and once again Steinbeck did not disappoint.

It is after World War II. Monterey and the entire state of California is still a sleepy place to call home, although not as behind the times as it was during the interwar years. The faces have changed along the row, but the prime locales remain the same including Chong's Grocery, the Bear Flag, and Western Scientific Institution. Yet, Doc, who had done early leg work toward establishing the Monterey Bay Aquarium during the first book, was one of the protagonists who fought in the World War II. He came home a depressed, changed man, and it became the duty of Mack and his group of vagrant boys from the Flophouse to get the beloved Doc out of his funk. Steinbeck has the entire book, no matter whose story is being told, narrated through Mack's eyes as he attempts to bring Cannery Row back to its prewar form and the once thought of aquarium to fruition.

Mack had always been full of ideas and his chief idea here was to get Doc married. He truly believed that a man as smart and noble as Doc needed a girl, preferably a wife, to get him out of his funk. Almost immediately, the entire Cannery Row gets behind Mack and his scheming because everyone loves Doc and do not want to see him fall to rot. Enter the new proprietress of the Bear Flag, Fauna who takes it upon herself to fix Doc up with her best girl, Suzy. Yet, Suzy is no hooker and in her Steinbeck develops a character who is ahead of her time in that she desires independence and is hardened to the point of not needing a man to help her get ahead in life. Not coincidentally, Doc harbors similar thoughts in that his heart has always been with the ocean and its creatures and he has never needed a woman in his life. Yet, Mack is determined and Steinbeck takes this crazy idea of Mack's and develops over the course of the novel.

Steinbeck's story telling skills are impeccable. Normally I am apprehensive to read sequels because I am already familiar with the characters and I feel that their story has for the most part already been told. I actually found Sweet Thursday, named for the day in which Mack hopes his dreams for Doc comes true, to be better than Cannery Row. In the first book Steinbeck takes his time introducing his readers to the time, place, and characters. Even with his storytelling ability, the flow to the novel felt choppy. Yet, in the second book, he comes out and announces that his goal is to get Doc married off if it is the last thing he does. As a result, the novel moved faster than its predecessor and I found myself truly enjoying the story, rooting for Doc and Suzy despite their shortcomings, to see if they did indeed find a way to love in the end.

Reading Steinbeck through adult eyes has allowed me to enjoy his writing in a more mature light. I hope to read more of his novels in the coming year as he was truly gifted with superior storytelling skills. I would have liked to see the Monterey Bay Aquarium actually open during the course of this book, but that is best left for one's imagination, besides which it may not have existed during the course of Steinbeck's life. Regardless, the Nobel Prize is one of the United States unrivaled story tellers and I am happy to have rediscovered his work this year.

4.5 stars (downgraded because I really was hoping to see the aquarium open)
Profile Image for Dolors.
539 reviews2,278 followers
February 9, 2017
The War is over and life seems to go back to normal in Cannery Row. Mack and the boys return to their feisty drinking at the Palace Flophouse and Fauna and the girls recover their usual business at the Bear Flag. Companionship and good cheer, camaraderie and the right dose of picaresque reign over the marginalized neighborhood in Monterey, and the familiar pulse of tragicomedy takes hold of the comforted reader.

There is only a discordant note in Steinbeck’s symphony that dulls the otherwise colorful picture: old Doc has come back home from the front a changed man; his boundless love for the sea, its marine creatures and even the appeasing voices of Gregorian chants have lost their allure. Doc has run out of the selfless love that kept all the community tied up together and an impending sense of dread has darkened the mood of the whole neighborhood.
Trying to reconnect with his former self and screaming out in stifling loneliness, Doc reopens his laboratory and embarks on a new project to study the behavioral pattern of octopuses in situations of stress (yes, Steinbeck’s humor shines with gusto), thinking that hard work will raise his spirits while ignoring the inner voice that nags mercilessly at him about what is missing in his life.
Luckily for Doc, Mack and Fauna know exactly what he needs to be a complete man again, and an improbable sequence of events will entertain and warm the heart of any reader who was missing the gang of crooks, vagrants, prostitutes and drunks that live in peaceful fellowship in Cannery Row.

Once more, Steinbeck’s prose is a delight to read. With loads of self-effacing and good-natured humor, he uses comedy and rich vocabulary salted with fine irony and a pinch of surrealism to create characters that will beat the odds and prevail over the grim circumstances that have been imposed on them.
Forty chapters with titles, sporadic poetry and plenty of philosophy fill the pages of this endearing tale of love and friendship. Time takes the best of us, and new yearnings plague even the most lone wolves when the moment is right.
The sea is lonely without its fish. Doc’s solitude is the birth of a metamorphosis that will bring some anguish and self-doubt but also the only chance that his dreams and wishes will materialize and make him whole. If you had such an opportunity, would you let it pass by without risking everything you have to get it?
I thought so, and so did Steinbeck.
Profile Image for Piyangie.
529 reviews489 followers
February 26, 2023
I'm not a fan of sequels. Often I find that I'm disappointed in them, so I always tread with caution. Having read Cannery Row, I was in indecision whether to proceed with Sweet Thursday or not. But the impression some characters made on me was too strong to resist that irrespective of my caution, I was pulled into the continuation of their story. I needn't explain further the end result. My rating speaks for that.

Unlike in Cannery Row, there is a defined plot here. And it is centered on Doc. He was one of my favorites so I kind of enjoyed his story, his romance, and the happy ending. After their previous failures, Mac and the boys, with the help of some former and newer inhabitants of the Cannery Row, were finally able to do a real turn for Doc.

The story is full of humour and funny moments that on the surface one may read the story as light entertainment. But if one cares to probe deeper into the story, one finds that despite the hilarity, Steinbeck has addressed some sad truths of life. Change is the dominating theme which is closely followed by loneliness. Doc, coming back to Cannery Row after serving in the war, finds unable to go on with his life as before. His die-hard enthusiasm for his work has waned, and no matter how hard he tries, he cannot summon the same energy and passion for his work. Doc is a changed man and his previous interests are insufficient to satisfy his present condition of life. He keenly feels his loneliness and craves to taste the unknown flavour of the sweet fruit that he has long denied himself. Change is something common to us all. We constantly struggle against it although we know it's inevitable. Like Doc, we too find that certain life-changing events make us different persons and that no matter how much we try, we cannot go on the same way as before. And with age, people feel the emptiness and loneliness in their lives more than in their youth, just like with Doc here. Steinbeck brings these sensitivities into life with warmth and sympathy.

I have praised Steinbeck's writing to the skies in all my previous reviews of his books, so I'll pass it here only stating that in my opinion, he is the most gifted classical American author. I also have to grant him an additional honour for making me like a sequel considerably for the first time in my life. Thank you, Steinbeck. Thank you very much for these two literary treasures. I'll certainly cherish them for life.
Profile Image for Lawyer.
384 reviews841 followers
April 7, 2017
Sweet Thursday: Cannery Row Redux

The world is so full of a number of things,
I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings.-Happy Thought, from a Child's Garden of Verse, Robert Louis Steverson

If you love the works of John Steinbeck as I do, it does not matter whether the critics have labeled one of his novels among his major novels. Even a "minor" Steinbeck is a joy to pick up and read. Even re-read. Recently I reveled in Cannery Row. Originally published in 1947, Steinbeck set the novel in the waning years of the Great Depression. It was natural to jump into Sweet Thursday.

Steinbeck's return to the Row was published in 1954. Although the setting is the same the community has gone through significant changes. Time has jumped forward to the years following World War Two. The Sardine canneries that flourished, providing the main economic flow in Monterey have closed. The fisheries have been over harvested during the war years.

Familiar faces are absent. Lee Chong has sold his store and sailed to the South Pacific. Dora, the madam of the Bear Flag has died in her sleep. Gay, one of the boys living at the Palace Flophouse and Grill was killed in the war.

New faces have arrived on the Row in their places. Lee sold his store to Joseph and Mary, known as the Patron, a con man and chiseler, looking to exploit the growing immigrant population. Flora, Dora's older sister has taken over the Bear Flag with a new perspective on the trade; to graduate her working girls into married women. She records their graduation by posting a gold star to commemorate their happy events. And there's Suzy, a girl down on her luck who takes up residence at the Bear Flag though Flora doubts she's cut out for the working life.

Otherwise, Steinbeck happily brings back the usual suspects to the pages of Sweet Thursday. Doc remains the "first citizen" of the row, the man to whom everyone goes for a consultation on any matter for which they need an answer. However, Doc has been to war. He returns to find his lab inactive and questioning his future, whether he has anything left to contribute in the time left to him. As usual he becomes involved in an esoteric scientific question: the topic of apoplexy in octopi. It will be the topic of a paper which he cannot seem to write. And everyone notices that Doc just doesn't seem to be himself.

Of course, everyone on the Row wants to do something "GOOD" for Doc. However Doc is caught in a spiral of despair.

“Now discontent nibbled at him - not painfully, but constantly. Where does discontent start? You are warm enough, but you shiver. You are fed, yet hunger gnaws you. You have been loved, but your yearning wanders in new fields. And to prod all these there's time, the bastard Time. The end of life is now not so terribly far away - you can see it the way you see the finish line when you come into the stretch - and your mind says, "Have I worked enough? Have I eaten enough? Have I loved enough?" All of these, of course, are the foundation of man's greatest curse, and perhaps his greatest glory. "What has my life meant so far, and what can it mean in the time left to me?" And now we're coming to the wicked, poisoned dart: "What have I contributed in the Great Ledger? What am I worth?" And this isn't vanity or ambition. Men seem to be born with a debt they can never pay no matter how hard they try. It piles up ahead of them. Man owes something to man. If he ignores the debt it poisons him, and if he tries to make payments the debt only increases, and the quality of his gift is the measure of the man.”

In his wanderings, Doc encounters a mysterious hermit who tells Doc what his problem is. It's the lack of love. Well everyone on the Row has figured that out. Flora and Mack and the boys all think Doc needs a woman. Flora thinks Suzy is ready for a gold star.

All the residents of the Row set out to throw Doc and Suzy together. However the two just don't seem to fit. Actually they fight like cats and dogs. But they're looking for the same thing.

Says Doc:

“Well, I remember this girl. I am not whole without her. I am not alive without her. When she was with me I was more alive than I have ever been, and not only when she was pleasant either. Even when we were fighting I was whole.”

Says Suzy:

“Maybe what I want ain't anywhere in the world, but I want it, so I think there is such a thing. I want a guy that's wide open. I want him to be a real guy, maybe even a tough guy, but I want a window in him. He can have his dukes up every other place but not with me. And he got to need the hell out of me. He got to be the kind of guy that if he aint' got me he ain't got nothing. And brother, that guy's going to have something!”

Steinbeck's return to the Row is a joyous, ribald celebration of life. It is a delight from start to finish. Minor? If you're a literary critic, maybe so. For the Steinbeck admirer, it's an absolute must. Read it.

Profile Image for Sandra.
923 reviews264 followers
February 17, 2019
Non posso che richiamare il commento scritto per Vicolo Cannery, di cui Quel fantastico giovedì è il seguito.
Al primo diedi tre stelle, a questo ne dò quattro. Perché quello era il mio primo Steinbeck, nel frattempo ho letto i suoi capolavori e mi sono innamorata dell’umanità, della sincerità di sentimenti, della bontà di Steinbeck ed apprezzo tutto quello che lui ha scritto. Gli dò quattro stelle anche per le belle pagine di scrittura “felice” che ci regala, pagine evocative, con personaggi “baricchiani”, come avevo già scritto nel commento a Vicolo Cannery. Gli dò quattro stelle perché come Steinbeck parla dell’amicizia e dell’amore nessuno lo fa, con partecipazione, con compassione, con coinvolgimento.
Profile Image for Ray.
587 reviews112 followers
April 11, 2017
A book that is a love story on three levels.

We have the love that Mack, Hazel and the gang feel for Doc, their friend and mentor. They want to set him up with a home, a girl and a microscope (don't ask), and almost but not quite get it right.

We have the slow burn love affair between Suzy and Doc. From totally different backgrounds, repelled and attracted in equal measure, but always set to get together in the end.

Most of all we have the love that Steinbeck clearly has for Cannery Row and it's motley cast of characters. They may be living on the wrong side of town, have intermittent work prospects and have a relaxed attitude to morals and the law but their colourful and joyful lives are a treat to read.

Written with affection and wit this is a wonderful book, worth a read.
Profile Image for Jason Koivu.
Author 7 books1,254 followers
May 8, 2017
I was in Monterey quite recently and even visited the Steinbeck house in Salinas, so I thought it would be a damn good time to read another Steinbeck. As per usual, it was a really good read and as per usual, I was right. But then again, it's always a good time to read Steinbeck!

Having said that, I do worry every time I read one of his books, because all the character's always die and it will always be sad. The amount of hyperbole in that previous sentence is nothing to the level of my forgetfulness when it comes to Steinbeck's solid sense of humor. For like Cannery Row, Sweet Thursday is actually a comedy.

That makes sense, since Sweet Thursday is a sequel to Cannery Row. Most all of the old characters are back and their aims are almost exactly the same. Poor old Doc is set upon once again by Mac and the boys in their attempts do something nice for their beloved friend. Of course, they have their own happiness in mind and their ways and means aren't conducive to well-laid plans, so yes, things fall apart. That's the whole point.

I could see someone docking the book for being a repeat and coasting on the coattails of a successful predecessor, but that someone is a douche. Shut up, sit back and enjoy the fact that a major novelist gave you more of a good thing!
Profile Image for John Hatley.
1,213 reviews207 followers
August 20, 2021
This is an excellent sequel to Cannery Row and an excellent reminder of John Steinbeck's great sense of humour!
Profile Image for Велислав Върбанов.
439 reviews45 followers
July 23, 2023
Джон Стайнбек е великолепен писател, който по изключително фин начин навлиза в сърцевината на човешките отношения... Неговите герои са предимно обикновени и бедни хора, но житейските им несгоди са толкова трогателно и майсторски представени, че четенето за тях се превръща в неописуемо удоволствие!

Може би най-светлите и почти идилични книги на автора са „Улица Консервна“ и нейното продължение „Благодатният четвъртък“. Историите на Мак, Док и останалите колоритни образи няма как да не развълнуват поне малко всеки читател... Ако досега не сте чели Стайнбек, мисля че тези две книги са перфектни за начало... ако пък вече познавате творбите, то и завръщането към тях носи супер приятни емоции! ❤️

„За случайния наблюдател улица Консервна може би прилича на низ от затворени в себе си себични единици, всяка от които функционира сама, без никаква връзка с останалите. Слаба беше видимата връзка между „Ла Ида“, „Мечешко знаме“, бакалницата (все още известна под името „Бакалница Небесно Цвете на Ли Чун“), нощния приют и аперитив „Палас“ и Западната биологична лаборатория. В действителност всички бяха обвързани с паяжиноподобни стоманени нишки — нараняването на едно от тия звена предизвикваше отмъщението на всички останали. Всички плачеха, ако едно от тях изпаднеше в печал.
Док беше нещо повече от почтен гражданин на улица Консервна. Той бе целителят на наранените души и порязаните пръсти. Макар и здраво окопал се в законността, той непрекъснато се виждаше принуден от разнообразните нужди на приятелите си да я нарушава. Без много да се мъчи, всеки можеше да измъкне от него по някой и друг долар. И когато Док изпаднеше в беда, бедата ставаше обща.“
Profile Image for Joe Valdez.
498 reviews850 followers
June 27, 2021
Published in 1954, John Steinbeck's sequel to Cannery Row arrived nine years after its predecessor and directly followed the monumental world building of East of Eden. This might explain why Sweet Thursday is on much more sober footing than Steinbeck's previous literary excursions to Monterey, California; rather than loosely connected vignettes connected to a party, this is more of a fully-formed novel, with a doggone romance as its centerpiece.

In a prologue, Steinbeck indulges in a delightful bit of meta-fiction. Mack, king of the Palace Flophouse and leader of the indigents who squat there, comments on Cannery Row and how he would've written the book differently. Mack's beef is that the author should've included chapter titles to help jog the reader's memory. He then launches into general literary critique that's easy to read as an address by Steinbeck to his contemporaries:

"Well, I like a lot of talk in a book, and I don't like to have nobody tell me what the guy that's talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks. And another thing--I kind of like to figure out what the guy's thinking by what he says. I like some description too," he went on. "I like to know what color a thing is, how it smells and maybe how it looks, and maybe how a guy feels about it--but not too much of that."

"Chapter 1: What Happened In Between" picks up most of the characters of Cannery Row after the end of World War II. Marine biologist Doc returns from a stint as a tech sergeant to find Western Biological Laboratories, which Doc had entrusted to a trust fund baby and fellow scientist known as Old Jingleballicks, run into disrepair.

Mack and the boys (Hazel, Whitey No. 1 and Whitey No. 2) still reside rent-free at the Palace Flophouse, but Lee Chong has sold the Heavenly Flower Grocery to a street hustler from Los Angeles named Joseph and Mary, who found the odds in drug trafficking too steep and transitioned into human trafficking instead. By chance, Joseph and Mary discovered a few of his wards had musical talent. He's now found a new hustle: show business management.

Dora Flood, owner of the Bear Flag Restaurant, died in her sleep. The whorehouse has been inherited by her next of kin, an older sister from San Francisco named Flora, who's rechristened "Fauna" by one of the regulars. Fauna runs the Bear Flag as a finishing school of sorts, priding herself in marrying her girls off to proper gentlemen. Against every instinct, Fauna takes in a new arrival to Monterey named Suzy, a tough kid whose heart (as well as her mouth) is too big to make it as a hustler.

With no wife and no children, Doc has begun to think seriously about his legacy and hits upon the idea to write a paper on cephalopods, noting his many detailed observations about the moods of octopi. Instead, he develops a bad case of writer's block and a cloud falls over all of Cannery Row. Fauna sees that Suzy is too opinionated to excel as an employee of the Bear Flag and needs a husband as much as Mack needs a wife to lift him out of his malaise.

Meanwhile, Mack and the boys are worried that the deed to the Palace Flophouse has been sold to Joseph and Mary without his knowledge but when the new owner receives a tax bill, the tenants will be expected to pay rent. Mack's brainstorm is to raffle off the "deed" to the flophouse, using the raffle to buy Doc an expensive microscope and rig the contest so that he inherits the flophouse as well. Fauna and Mack's schemes converge, without Doc or Suzy having much to say about it.

Sweet Thursday (the day between Lousy Wednesday and Waiting Friday) is a delight. Steinbeck conjures a world I didn't want to leave. The climate and atmosphere of postwar Monterey -- with its shuttered canneries, its fishing fleets, its working girls, philosophers and charlatans -- is just one facet. Steinbeck is a student of human nature and has a wonderful way of noting what's wrong with people without being bitten by bitterness or cynicism.

Several of the characters of Cannery Row get the idea to do something nice for Doc, when in the end, they do what they really want, which is something nice for the person they know best: themselves. But their scams are always out in the open. Characters lie, cheat, steal, slack off and take advantage of each other, but they feel bad about it too. And with Monterey as small as it is, they have to live with their guilt and atone for it in some way, which I found hopeful. This usually leads to a greater disaster, but it makes for delightful reading.

Somewhere in there is the story of the whole human race.

I leave you with some wisdom from Steinbeck regarding choosing a wife.

"You know, they say there's three good reasons for marrying a hustler."

"What are you talking about?" said Doc.

Mack counted on his fingers. "Number one, she ain't likely to wander--she's done all her experimenting. Number two, you ain't likely to surprise her or disappoint her. And number three, if a hustler goes for you she ain't got but one reason."

Doc watched him, hypnotized. "What reason?"

"She likes you. Good night, Doc."
Profile Image for Kim.
426 reviews511 followers
October 24, 2012

Since listening to an audiobook edition of Cannery Row earlier this year and falling in love with both the characters and Steinbeck's writing, I've looked forward to reading this sequel. It's set about ten years after the events of Cannery Row. Doc has returned from army service to his work at the Western Biological Laboratory and finds himself unsatisfied and depressed. This makes the other denizens of Cannery Row decide that Doc needs a wife and that Suzy - a new girl at the Bear Flag Restaurant - is the wife for him.

Unlike Cannery Row, which is essentially a series of linked vignettes, Sweet Thursday has a more traditional structure. In many ways it resembles a 1950s romantic comedy - think Spencer Tracey and Katharine Hepburn* - in which boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl. In the process of finding true love, both Doc and Suzy have to learn a lot about themselves and about each other. Getting Doc and Suzy together requires effort from Doc's friends, including Mack and the boys at the Palace Flophouse (and in particular the dimwitted but sweet Hazel), Dora and the girls at the Bear Flag Restaurant and the new owner of Lee Chong's Grocery, who revels in the name of Jesus and Mary.

I loved reading this novel. The characters are well-drawn and the narrative contains both humour and wisdom about the human condition. I love Steinbeck's use of language: there's something about the directness of his prose, its accessibility and its beauty, which really speaks to me. This is not a high-brow work. It may not be up there with The Grapes of Wrath in terms of literary merit, but for anyone who has read and loved Cannery Row, it's a real treat. I will definitely be reading it again. Spending time with Doc and those who love him is a joy.

*Not that I visualise Tracey and Hepburn in the roles of Doc and Suzy, but the sparring and the repartee which characterised their on-screen relationship would be just right for this pair.

Profile Image for Debbie Zapata.
1,832 reviews43 followers
July 26, 2021
July 24, 3pm ~~ Review asap.

July 26, 9am ~~ I have been reading Steinbeck this year as part of a group project. I have discovered many titles I had never heard of, and this is one of them. I saw it listed in the back of my copy of The Moon Is Down, and off I went to my favorite online used book seller.

Sweet Thursday is a return to Cannery Row. We get to see how life is there after the war; who is still around, who has moved on, what changes have been made both on the surface and deep inside the unique world of the first book.

I got a kick out of the prologue, where Steinbeck has a few of his characters discussing their previous book. Mack says he was never satisfied with that book. He would want a title on each chapter to make it easier if he wanted to go back and check on something. He also likes a lot of talk, not much description of what a person looks like (he likes to figure that out for himself from the way the person talks) and he doesn't like a lot of 'hooptedoodle'.

I love that word, don't you? Hooptedoodle for Mack is where the author decides to:
Spin up some pretty words maybe, or sing a little song with language. That's nice. But I wish it was set aside so I don't have to read it.

This explains chapters 3 and 38, also known as Hooptedoodle (1) and Hooptedoodle (2). Just don't skip them like Mack would, they are important and entertaining hooptedoodles.

Doc comes back after the war and visits friends to catch up with life in the Row. But as he settles back into his civilian routine, something is not quite right. What could it be? His friends all sense a problem, and try to help as only they can. Does their plan work or does it cause more turmoil for Doc?

I thought at first that Sweet Thursday would be a girl, but it turned out that the title refers to a certain Thursday where the world woke up and felt blessed. One of those Everything Is Going Right Today type of days. And this particular Thursday was the moment when the stars aligned and all the little cogs and gears in the working of the universe clicked together to create perfect magic. The beginning of something wonderful.

At least everyone thought so (including me). But what finally happened? Sorry, you will have to visit Cannery Row during your own Sweet Thursday to find out.

Profile Image for Maxwell.
1,172 reviews8,375 followers
June 6, 2023
A fun continuation of the world of Cannery Row. Following the same characters about a decade later, this story echoes the plot of the first novel, with Mack and the boys trying to do something nice for Doc. We meet a new character, Suzy, who shakes things up. All in all, this was a sweet, simple story with some good writing and funny moments. I liked it but didn't love it compared to other Steinbeck books. The first volume works better as a standalone, though if you really love the characters this is a great addition to their world.
Profile Image for Meghan.
67 reviews10 followers
July 8, 2008
The sequel to Steinbeck's Cannery Row, it's difficult to nail down exactly why this novel isn't as good as its prequel. Sweet Thursday is still a very enjoyable book and managed to arouse and audible chuckle from me here and there, but, as the only work of Steinbeck's I've read that could be labeled as a "romantic comedy," it fell short of leaving me with that happy and slightly amazed feeling that Cannery Row succeeded in leaving behind. There were points in the story where I almost wanted to groan and say, "Really, Steinbeck? Really?"

Don't get me wrong. This is still a good, fun book. Most of the lovable characters from Cannery Row return for new adventures and most of these characters have not lost their endearing and poetic starkness, but it's just not the same. There's something implicitly philosophical about a plot that consists basically of a hodgepodge of bums trying to throw a party for their beloved "Doc." When those same bums--give and take a few--take it upon themselves to find a wife--or something like a wife--for Doc, I just don't buy it. It's somehow not as meaningful.

But that's okay. If you liked Cannery Row then you should still read Sweet Thursday. Who knows? You might completely disagree with me and like it just as much. It's entirely possible.
Profile Image for Nathan.
244 reviews48 followers
September 21, 2020
I liked this quite a bit more than Cannery Row. I always enjoy Steinbeck's writing, but Sweet Thursday had a much stronger center to the story the Cannery Row. I liked the characters better and cared a lot more about what happened to them.
Profile Image for Miriam.
26 reviews
November 2, 2007
The second time this book has caught me by surprise. He's got a very... I wanna say "astute," but it's something else. He just keeps "gettin'" (like GOTCHA!) me. Steinbeck has a voice I can tune in to. It's weird, like how singing voices resonate whether I like the music or not, styles of writing... they either rattle your bones, or it's nothing. Just a story. Words completely randomly and inelegantly strung together. end rant. a-a-a-and... :) here's the part...


"... "You know, Suzy, there ain't no way in the world to get in trouble by keeping your mouth shut. You look back at every mess you ever got in and you'll find your tongue started it."

"That's true," said Suzy. "But I can't seem to stop."

"You got to learn it like you learn anything else---just practice. The next thing is opinions. Hell Suzy, we ain't got no opinions! We just say stuff we heard or seen in the movies. We're scared we'll miss something, like running for a bus. That's the second rule: lay off opinions because you ain't really got any."

"You got 'em numbered, huh?" said Suzy.

"I could write a book," said Fauna. "'If She Could, I Could.' Now take number three. There don't nobody listen, and it's so easy! You don't have to do nothing when you listen. If you do listen it's pretty interesting. If a guy says something that pricks up your interest, why, don't hide it from him, kind of try to wonder what he's thinking instead of how you're going to answer him back."

"You're sure putting the finger on me," Suzy said softly.

"I only got a little more, but it's the hardest of all, and the easiest."

"What number?"

"I lost track. Don't pretend to be something you ain't, and don't make like you know something you don't, or sooner or later you'll sure fall on your ass. And there's one more part to this one, whatever number it is: they ain't nobody was ever insulted by a question. S'pose Doc says something and you don't know what it means. Ask him! The nicest thing in the world you can do for anybody is let them help you.""


I don't know. That's just a piece. I just keep getting surprised by moments he hosts, and it's in good context! not just thrown in there!

If you like Monterey or simple times of... some time ago :) I like his style. It's simple, but lovely. I feel like I think it's boring subject matter, it's the minutiae of life, but it's strung together so nice and so thoughtfully it's like looking at a beautifully painted picture of an orange.
Profile Image for Петър Панчев.
820 reviews125 followers
May 13, 2016
На улица „Консервна“ идилията продължава
(Цялото ревю е тук: https://knijenpetar.wordpress.com/201...)

Каквото и хубаво да се каже за Джон Стайнбек, все ще бъде малко, затова и писането на ревюта за неговите книги прилича по-скоро на опит да се построи още един паметник на писателя до хилядите вече завършени. От него съм чел доста, но съм писал единствено за „Улица ‘Консервна’“ (https://knijenpetar.wordpress.com/201...), което дори ми се струва леко обидно по отношение на искрената ми симпатия към него. Но какво пък – постепенно ще запълня тази празнина, а и повторното четене на романи като „На изток от рая“, „Гроздовете на гнева“, „Тортила Флет“ и други от по-известните му, няма да ми натежи. Напротив, ще ми докара само положителни емоции. Но да не избързваме. Сега е ред на продължението на „Улица ‘Консервна���“ – „Благодатният четвъртък“ („Колибри“, 2015, с превод на Кръстан Дянков).И двете книги притежават магията на така наречените незабравими книги, към които дори се изказват любовни чувства.:) И при мен има нещо такова. Затова и оценяването е безсмислено – как да оцениш правилно нещо, в което си влюбен? Все пак ще намерите традиционната ми оценка в края на ревюто, като ми простите и невъздържаните емоции в самото ревю. Старая се да не заприличам на на някой, който си е загубил главата, но това сам няма как да го преценя, нали?
(Продължава в блога: https://knijenpetar.wordpress.com/201...)
Profile Image for John Martin.
Author 25 books177 followers
March 3, 2012
Perhaps it's not rated as John Steinbeck's best books - but it's my favourite. Whenever someone tells me they enjoyed Cannery Row, I say: read Sweet Thursday; it's better. Steinbeck invented such wonderful characters and breathed life into them.
Profile Image for Melindam.
663 reviews293 followers
April 27, 2019
Fantastic read! No time to write a proper review for the present, but I will get there eventually.
Profile Image for Lesley.
159 reviews51 followers
September 19, 2023
I bet this sequel to Cannery Row was a hit when published in 1954. This one was hard to connect with for me in 2016. Just could not finish.
Profile Image for Oziel Bispo.
522 reviews71 followers
March 16, 2019
A vida parecia seguir normalmente em cannery row, logo após a segunda guerra mundial. Doc contudo, está triste, acaba de voltar da guerra, parece também sem rumo, seu único consolo é seu laboratório de pesquisas de animais marinhos, cascavéis e outros seres. Preocupado, seus amigos decidem ajudá-lo. Todos acham que  doc precisa é de uma garota. Suzy , uma prostituta recém chegada a um cabaré local parece ser a garota certa. Todos querem dar uma ajudinha. Desde Flora a dona do cabaré que fez com que Suzy se sentisse uma mulher de verdade, saindo com um homem de verdade, não com um cliente , até Hazel com um coração enorme mas com uma mente curta que acaba exagerando um pouco em seu ímpeto de ajudar.

O livro então passa a explorar esse enredo; Doc carrancudo em seu laboratório, e Suzy no cabaré sendo moldada para Doc. Só que Suzy demonstra ser muito mais do que essa simples garota à procura de uma nova vida em uma nova cidade. Diríamos aqui no Brasil que Suzy é uma mulher porreta , arretada , não será fácil lidar com ela.

Um livro muito agradável de se ler , divertido, leve , irônico e acima de tudo, terno.
Profile Image for piperitapitta.
964 reviews353 followers
November 29, 2018
Pretty Suzie

Certo, Doc non è Richard Gere, ma un biologo sgangherato e disincantato che torna a "Vicolo Cannery" dopo la guerra in uno stato di torpore e indolenza ben lungi dall'essere l'uomo di successo del film.
Eppure ho un debole per Doc, sin da quando l'ho incontrato in "Vicolo Cannery" o ne "La Battaglia", così come doveva averlo anche Steinbeck per il suo amico fraterno, il biologo Ed Ricketts, che fu costantemente per lui influente fonte di ispirazione al punto di rappresentarlo, come in questo caso, in molti dei suoi romanzi e racconti.
La stessa influenza e la stessa dedizione che hanno per Doc tutti gli abitanti del vicolo di Monterey, California, che si fanno in quattro per renderlo felice.
Se in "Vicolo Cannery" lo scopo era quello di regalargli una festa di compleanno in "Quel fantastico giovedì" - "Sweet Thursday" in originale, dove quel sweet contribuisce maggiormente a descrivere l'atmosfera del romanzo - qui alzano il tiro, perché tutti quanti, dagli amici del Palace Flophouse alle ragazze del Bear Flag, il bordello di Monterey, hanno deciso di trovargli una moglie per scuoterlo dall'apatia e restituirgli il piacere di vivere.
Suzie, nuova ragazza del Bear Flag, si inserisce nella storia con prepotenza e malagrazia, perché tutto è meno che una principessa, così come i tentativi dei suoi amici, su tutti Hazel, e Fauna, la tenutaria del Bear Flag, sono maldestri e pasticciati; perché anche questa, in fondo, come i suoi protagonisti, è solo una favola sgangherata.
Peccato che la storia per decollare impieghi quasi la metà del romanzo.
Ma io, al mio caro Steinbeck, sono disposta a perdonargli anche questa.
Profile Image for Jenny Bunting.
Author 16 books426 followers
June 16, 2015
I loved Cannery Row and it was a love that developed over many years of growing appreciation. Sweet Thursday had everything I loved about Cannery Row (it being a sequel and all). I can't get over how good Steinbeck is at characterization; he shows, not tells. There were some slow parts and bizarre parts, much like Cannery Row but I really enjoyed it and bought into everything that happened.

You got to watch Hazel though. That boy is trouble.

Profile Image for Carlo Mascellani.
Author 18 books262 followers
June 3, 2020
Un uomo in crisi, sopraffatto da mille dilemmi, alla ricerca di se stesso e di uno scopo tra tanti possibili. Una vita trascorsa in una sorta di vano parossismo, che dell'attività frenetica cerca l'oblio al proprio presunto fallimento esistenziale. Poi una luce giunge a rischiarar le tenebre e a concedergli di scorger il sentiero che aveva avuto innanzi agli occhi da molto tempo. L'amore...
Profile Image for Sarah.
733 reviews73 followers
July 25, 2016
This was a charming novel. It's been too long since I read Cannery Row, though, and I wasn't as connected to the characters as I would have liked. I need to read them back to back in a few years.
Profile Image for Jason.
100 reviews4 followers
November 13, 2018
I loved this book... it is a sweet follow-up sequel to Cannery Row. I was hooked at the intro when the review of "Cannery Row" is told from the perspective of one of the vagabonds. It is much more sweet and cheerful than the first book, but it resonated.

This book felt a little bit like Mark Twain in its adventurous nature. Lots of funny material. Very enjoyable read!
Profile Image for Joshua Thompson.
840 reviews137 followers
July 6, 2022
A truly delightful read. Just like Cannery Row, the cast of colorful characters is amongst Steinbeck's best. Paired with Cannery Row, I consider these two volumes the most underrated works of Steinbeck's.
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