After getting onboard the Steinbeck train, I got stuck at the station, undecided on my connector. I could do The Grapes of Wrath, which passes through my hometown and was banned in county schools and libraries for decades, but which is hella long, or I could read East of Eden, one of my wife's absolute favorite books that I've "meaning to read" for nigh on twenty years now, but which is even longer. And so I hesitated.
What I fool I was!
I finally acted because the Relief Society book group picked it. I got started early enough that I could, feasibly, have finished in time with dedicated effort, but that moment coincided with all my waking moments being spent working on my fireside, which thus came together nicely but, ha ha, I wasn't reading East of Eden in the moments leftover.
Which was fine, actually. Four months is about the right speed. Slow enough to really savor, but not so slow that I could forget the characters or the meaning of timshel.
When the book began (with a gorgeous rendition of the California landscape) I came to the theory that this would be Middlemarchy---about a community more than any one person or family. And then it swung to the East Coast and I was, like, HOW BIG IS THIS THING?
Lady Steed, rereading it for the book club. had forgotten everything before the final third or so. And I can understand why. Although I loved the history of the family (and it does focus in on one family, then one generation, then one person in the final pages) I expect it will be those final relationships and pages that are most likely to remain vivid as the years past.
That said, add Cathy to literature's great villains. Add Lee to literature's wisest observers. Add Sam to literature's great holy men. And so on.
Lady Steed says that when she read it in high school, a lot of the students struggled because the novel is controlled by a single Bible story, and the number of characters whose names start with C or A is not exactly subtle. But what Steinbeck does with those initials is subtle. All things are rich and complex, much like real people.
One thing Steinbeck does that I'm still mulling is make himself a character. Only barely. I think we see him as a child, once, but his realness does color the narration now and then. It's a curious choice and one I'm still deciphering.
Before we could move to volume two, Colleen came into about a dozen midcentury massmarket Peanuts collections in excellent shape. So we got her a box and tossed in our other ones (of which this is one) and now these are our nightly reading. So far so fun!