MY LIFE WITH JOHN STEINBECK
For the first time the story of John Steinbeck's forgotten second wife unmentioned in standard editions of his classics such as The Grapes of Wrath. Their 1943 war time marriage ended when she divorced him in 1948. Smart, adventurous and in love, she at first matched Steinbeck's zest for 'on the road adventures, ' but was then only too happy to settle down and make a home where he could write. Love and marriage were considered the appropriate vocation of women of her era. Gwyn paid a high price for her involvement with the restless, driven, genius John Steinbeck. This was a marriage which could not succeed despite her love for Steinbeck, the man and master storyteller. The book reveals the missing voice of Gwyn, during a six-year marriage which included the tumult of World War Two. When she met Steinbeck in 1939, Gwyn was a professional singer, working for CBS in Los Angeles. She was an independent young woman, lively and radiant in her love for the great man wooing her - fourteen years her senior. He was captivated by her beauty and magnetic presence. For women of her era, many of whom had to leave jobs after the war, marriage was considered a woman's true career - love was life. This journal is her story of that adventure, often 'on the road' with a restless Steinbeck, criss-crossing continents and making homes. Full of insight My Life with John Steinbeck is funny and on target about people and places. A newlywed on 78th Street in New York, Gwyn was alone after John decided to go to war, just weeks after their marriage. But later they enjoyed snowstorms and high society, carousing with the Robert Benchleys and Burl Ives among others. They moved to Monterey for sojourns with Steinbeck crony ED Ricketts in his eccentric Lab. There were treks to Mexico, a story of an elegant party at a Russian embassy, and one about being pregnant and sick by the roadside. Gwyn says Steinbeck was 'in love with love.' But for much of their time together, she was completely in love with both the great writer and the flawed man. She gave him complete quiet to work and, when needed, her full attention. The Moon is Down, Cannery Row, The Pearl and The Wayward Bus were written during their years together and much of the planning of East of Eden. Gwyn tried to be the 'Amazon' Steinbeck expected; until their son's births, which she linked with the mysterious 'death of their love.' When she asked for a divorce (finalised in 1949) she could no longer live with him. He may never have forgiven her. How often do we hear about the cost of being with a famous man? When is 'trading up' self-abandonment? Gwyn's story is an enigmatic look at an 'everywoman' of her time, who took marriage as her vocation and enabled a great man to pursue his work. Yet the ideology of giving 'all' came at a steep price. 2018, the fiftieth anniversary of John Steinbeck's death in 1968, may be the year of the woman. How fitting for Gwyn Steinbeck's journal to be published.
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