“For the first time, the story of John Steinbeck’s ‘forgotten second wife’, unmentioned in standard editions of classics, such as The Grapes of Wrath. Their 1943 wartime 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 create a home where he could write. Love and marriage were considered the appropriate vocation for women of her era. Gwyn paid a high price for her involvement with the restless, driven, genious, John Steinbeck. This was a marriage which could not succeed despite her love for Steinbeck, the man and master storyteller.”

Bruce Lawson, Biographer.

“A genuinely important literary discovery, that illumines part of Steinbecks’s life, that has been in the shadow for half a century. I found it impossible to get a good take on Gwen. Obviously Steinbeck was wildly attracted to her: she was beautiful, tall and willowy. But as she had passed away, it was impossible to know how she really felt about her famous husband and what that marriage was really like. Did Steinbeck value her? Did he treat her well?”

Jay Parini, 1994, Steinbeck biographer.

“Finally, we have the story of Gwen, also known as Gwyn, John Steinbecks’s second wife and mother of his two sons. Her story is the missing piece of the jigsaw that was John Steinbeck, a flawed genius. Hold on tight. It’s a bit of a bumpy ride.”

James Dourgarian. Bookseller and Steinbeck specialist.

Latest Blog Posts

Eighty Years Ago

Eighty years ago, John Steinbeck’s best-known novel, the extraordinary The Grapes of Wrath was published, which told of the flight and plight, of the hundreds of thousands of families, mainly small farmers, who fled to a better life in California. This life, however,...

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From Montgomery to Monterey

The Forgotten Wife – Presentation about Gwyn Conger Steinbeck – San Jose University, May 2019 Hello, may I introduce myself.  My name is Bruce Lawson.  I am a semi-retired businessman from Montgomery, a small former county town/seat in Powys, Mid Wales, about half the...

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Dastardly Dickens – Men Behaving Badly

Gwyn Conger found John Steinbeck impossible to live with and divorced him – he never forgave her. His behaviour was not unusual amongst famous writers. The London Times revealed last week how Victorian reformer and writing superstar, Charles Dickens, tired of his...

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Gwyn and Charlie Chaplin

John Steinbeck probably met Chaplin in August 1938 and records Chaplin visiting him that summer as he laboured on The Grapes of Wrath.  Chaplin, according to Parini, arrived unannounced in a black limousine, driven by a uniformed chauffeur. Subsequently, the two men...

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Gwyn in Scandinavia

Just finished re-reading The Moon is Down, Steinbeck’s novella of the reaction of a small town’s population, in northern Europe perhaps, when they are occupied by unnamed invaders – undoubtedly based on a German army, but never specifically so described.  This could...

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A Great Man Is Dead

John Steinbeck, American writer of over twenty major works and Nobel Prize winner, died at his New York home fifty years ago on December 20th 1968, the day before mid-winter.  He was 66 and had been in declining health for several years. One of his last books was The...

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A Story Hidden for Fifty Years – Gwyn’s Memoir

 “I believe in and will fight for the right of the individual to function as an individual without pressure from any direction. I am unalterably opposed to any interference with the creative mind. It may be wrong but out of it have come the only rights we know.  I am...

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Gwyn Conger Steinbeck – Who was She?

Gwyn Conger Steinbeck was the second wife of John Steinbeck, master story-teller and Nobel Prize winner.  She was born 25th October 1916.  She met Steinbeck in late 1938 or early 1939, when she was just 22.  At a border crossing to Mexico in March 1944, she said she...

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Preface-Jay Parini

John Steinbeck (1902-1968) was, with Hemingway, Faulkner and Fitzgerald, among the small handful of American literary giants of the twentieth century; the author of such classic novels as Of Mice and Men, The Grapes of Wrath, Tortilla Flat, Cannery Row and East of...

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Prologue – Gwyn Conger Steinbeck

  If you write a book, you have to have something to say. Long after we are gone, John Steinbeck will be studied and his works read. His genius as a writer is undisputed, but what of the man? I do not know of anyone who has discovered the real key to him, but...

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