1: I loved East of Eden when we read it for book club
2: It fit with the Historical Fiction Challenge
3: It fits with the 1% Well Read Challenge.
Knowing that I loved East of Eden, I expected something like that from this book. They are NOT similar at all.
I had a hard time getting into this book ... I couldn't quite figure out what the author was trying to do. However, once I figured it out, I loved this short little book!
Cannery Row is about the people living in on the row (it's in Monterey, California, in case you didn't know). It's about their lives, what they do from day to day, how they interact. The story is set in the 1930s when money is tight but Prohibition is over.
In brief, somewhat unconnected chapters, Steinbeck introduces you to the men and women of the town. What I realized about halfway through the book is that he's actually giving you the events of a week or so in chronological order. He updates you on one group of people, then in the next chapter fills you in on what another group is doing across town. Sometimes those stories relate to each other, sometimes not. Once I "got it" the book completely made sense to me and I really enjoyed it.
I do have to mention Steinbeck's amazing writing. His descriptions are vivid and unique. For those of you familiar with the coast of California (I've been there a few times) you'll immediately recognize the towns and physical features he includes. But even if you've never seen a tide pool, for example, you'll be able to see it clearly in your imagination. I wanted to include the entire tide pool description here but it's too long. Instead, I'll give you this snippet:
The creeping murderer, the octopus, steals out, slowly, softly, moving like a gray mist, pretending now to be a bit of weed, now a rock, now a lump of decaying meat while its evil goat eyes watch coldly. ... suddenly it runs lightly on the tips of its arms, as ferociously as a charging cat.You really have to read that entire section - it's is so ... vivid is the only word I can come up with.
In other parts of the book the author uses interesting word choices as well. At one point some men are smelling the stew they've been cooking for hours and the smell is "heartbreaking" ... I can feel that. Several of the men say "idear" rather than "idea" ... my uncles all use that word too.
At just over 100 pages, this is an easy and entertaining read with excellent use of language. Because it's so small and because it fits in with so many challenges out there, I'm giving away my copy of Cannery Row to one lucky reader. Leave a comment on this post and I'll draw a random winner on July 25. Good luck!
Also reviewed by (give me your link and I'll add you here):
The Bluestocking Society