Having sketched out the history and the geography of the Salinas Valley in Northern California Steinbeck starts to put some characters in that context.
Bullet points from pages 1 - 40 (sorry but its still Christmas time)
* The valley has some of the same challenges that other locations familiar in Steinbeck’s novels have with poor soil and poverty always lurking in the shadows as potential threats and he initially introduces the Hamiltons, Irish immigrants who own land that could produce both of those outcomes
* The Hamiltons work hard and come up with many inventions that could make them rich but they prefer to live on the slopes of the valley where the land is poor and the crops are always a struggle
* Next the focus shifts to the Trask family with Cyrus the father coming back from the civil war minus a leg but with an interest in military history that finally lands him a job in the military as an advisor
* Trask’s wife commits suicide so he marries another girl to raise his child who grows up with his half brother to be trained in military fashion but the eldest boy Adam takes a fancy to the second wife who is dying of consumption and starts leaving her little gifts
* The father takes Adam out for a walk and admits that he loves him more and then Charles the other brother goes out for a walk and almost kills Adam in a jealous rage and the step mother tells the wounded Adam that really Charles is a good man because he has been leaving her gifts in secret – the wrong person of course
This is set to be quite an epic and I’m glad I am now underway. More tomorrow…