Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Short Reign of Pippin IV, by John Steinbeck. Viking, 1957

In this short piece of political satire, the French government decides to bring the monarchy back. They settle on Pippin Heristal, an amateur astronomer who lives on the income from some vineyards. As a constitutional monarch, there isn’t really much useful he can do, and he finds himself obliged to live uncomfortably in a palace, and put up with an infinite number of hangers-on, all who have inherited positions that suddenly are providing them with money. He just wishes to go back to his old life. His practical wife, Marie, figures that running a country should be like running a household, and her best friend, a nun who was formerly a show girl, gives sage advice. As does an old man who lives by a lake, who Pippin meets on one of his escapes from the palace, which he manages disguised as a common man, riding a motor scooter. It goes to his feminist, politically active daughter’s head and she instantly turns into a Disney princess.

While written in 1957, a good lot of the satire is still relatable today. People and politics really haven’t changed much. The book pokes fun at America just as much as at France, and it’s a quick, sort of fun read if you’re a Steinbeck fan- although it’s very different from any of his other books. Four stars.   

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