Classic Fiction

The Jungle Audiobook Review

book cover of The Jungle audiobook
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The Jungle Audiobook

Written by: Upton Sinclair

Narrated by: Grover Gardner

Length: 13 hrs and 17 mins

Unabridged Audiobook

Release Date: 05-17-11

Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.

After listening to “The Jungle” audiobook I can say that it might be my favorite 20th century work of all time. It was such a treat to read this book when I first listened to it and liked it even more the second time around. Through his writings I got the impression that Upton Sinclair was a man of hard character, one could even say wicked. Could be that he had a dislike for immigrants or was trying to make a social commentary showing that the American Dream wasn’t achievable by everyone. There’s a lot to unpack here but for some reason this book touched something in my soul and it’s one of the most powerful novels that I’ve come across.

If you think about it, it’s a story we’re all familiar with. The story of the immigrant that moves to America in search of a better future, but struggles to integrate and get used to the local way of life. They might not be suffering through such conditions like at the meat packing industry let’s say but just take a look at the day laborers, trying to feed their family by taking odd jobs. What of the field workers who pick the farm crops for pennies on the dollar, how are they any different from our protagonist Jurgis, pan handling or getting small jobs? Don’t expect an easy listen here, you’ll be asking yourself such questions throughout your experience with The Jungle audiobook.

The Narration

There are many versions of this audiobook on Audible with different narrators conveying this classic to us but they hardly compare to Grover Gardner’s rendition. I’ve listened to this version on two occasions. The first time I rented it from my local public library and it impressed me so much I felt the need to revisit it again, so I purchased that same version from Audible. I know it might be down to personal preference but there’s just something Gardner’s voice that stands out. In my humble opinion – skip the others and get a-hold of the Blackstone audio version of The Jungle. Why not experience the best that this classic audiobook has to offer?

The Story

Lots of listeners might turn their attention to the meat packing portion of the book, but not less important here is the social statement that might get lost to some. Maybe you’ve never quite had your finger on it but surely felt instinctively that for the most part today in the West, it’s very hard for someone without wealth to succeed. Unless they have some highly sought after profession or education or the luck of having a rich relative back in their home land, chances are they will always be struggling and falling behind.

The Jungle Audiobook Overall

In the early 20th century conditions for laborers were poor across many industries. It’s the same time period where so many people died due to a fire in NYC’s Triangle Shirtwaist Factory because the management locked their employees inside a room. This novel fictionalizes the poor working conditions in Chicago’s stock yards. It had such an impact that when it was first published Teddy Roosevelt read it and passed actual legislation that insured the safety standards for stockyard employees and products alike. A huge deal for the time. Upton Sinclair hoped that his book will push workers into the socialist party but that didn’t quite pan out.

Sinclair hyperbolized the living conditions of immigrants by having every possible misery befall one man. Clearly this was not the case of every American immigrant or the country never would have grown and thrived the way it did. The book is still very well written, giving the listener a real view of corrupt Chicago in the early 20th century. It’s a pity that the novel is no longer part of the curriculum in American schools. A friend of mine who is a high school teacher tells me that the new policy of schools is not to show the hardships of white immigrants and the family in this book is originally from Lithuania. I’m taking one point off of my review because of the socialist rant in the last chapter  which kind of grinded my gears but that call-to-arms was in fact spreading across all of Europe and most of America at the time. It didn’t turn out to be the answer to the problems that progress brought but the movement did help establish unions which helped the working man immensely.