The Rolling Hills of Steinbeck
At the beginning of last year we had a short weekend away at The Silver Water Resort, San Remo, Australia. It was just the two of us and racing around Phillip Island in the convertible was an exhilarating start to the year. The resort seemed very family friendly with huge inflatable bouncy pillows and an indoor and outdoor pool. So we decided to return this year with the kids. Our apartment once again had views of Phillip Island on one side and on the other rolling hills, a perfect backdrop for reading Steinbeck’s East of Eden.
Steinbeck even gives me a bit of background on how San Remo got it’s name!
‘Of course they were religious people, the men who could read or write. Thus the first names of places were saints or names of religious holidays’
Obviously he isn’t talking about San Remo but isn’t it amazing how words can fit into any situation if you look at them from the right angle.
As I plonked myself down on the sun lounger I started to read about Cyrus, I don’t like this man very much. His arrogance drips off the page as he stamps all over the fragile souls in his household. Even as his leg is being cut off I feel no pain for him. He obviously thinks a women’s duty is to fulfil his physical and emotional requirements. He is a taker not a giver. I have encountered Cyrus on a few occasions in real life. Maybe further on in the book I will grow to admire him but his first impression has stuck for now! Steinbeck’s descriptions are awesome, I am there with this family, a fly on the wall in their house in the Salinas Valley, North California.
Back in San Remo our kids bounced off onto the huge inflatable cushions whilst we decided on our plan to attack Phillip Island, the chocolate factory was high on the list! Closely followed by go-carting at the world famous Phillip Island race track. I wonder what Adam would have made of the chocolate factory and go carting instead of being terrified of his bullying father and brother and the thought of becoming a soldier. Another character just like Anna Karenina who is surrounded by family and yet still so alone.
On day two a little gem that we discovered was Churchill Island, where the first settlers came to Victoria. After heading over the small bridge passing mangroves on either side, a huge estate opened out. Wandering around the farm Steinbecks characters were with me in this other time. I thought about Alice and how such a small timid character is actually the one who holds the most strength, Cyrus would be nothing without her. As we walked around the farm it was easy to step into East of Eden, the Northern Californian dry landscape certainly seemed similar in my mind to that of Australia. To find the beautiful house and original 18th century cottages still standing was fantastic, even the horseman fixing new shoes to the huge beast seemed to have stepped out of a different era.
San Remo itself is a small fishing community, the huge trawlers and pelicans dominating the port in equal measures. The long bar of the Hotel houses the usual Aussie pokies at one end and a bistro lounge at the other. It’s unusual for both to share the same vicinity but equally as intriguing and again probably a taster of times gone by. The stalls along the bar housing what I hope was the odd local fisherman. The original decor is still evident and has been tastefully modernised with booths. We shared a tasty prawn risotto recommended by the waitress which did not disappoint. High praise from regular risotto makers! I’m sure it tasted all the better knowing that the fish was local.
It’s a great read when the book mirrors your surroundings and your state of mind. Steinbeck has a lot to show me, I think I might have met my second favourite author. I’m sure he would have wooed Jane Austen with his swagger and she would have coyly talked about Mr Darcy as if he were her lover not some fictional character that had only inhabited her head, not her bed.
My book Sharks & Lovers is available to download here: