East of Eden: Part II

As I mentioned before when I reviewed section 1 two weeks ago, I plan on reviewing the book in quarters, as that is how the book is divided up for discussion over on the Classic Reads Book Blog.  A quick aside on that method of reviewing—I have had a lot of people ask me how I manage to read such as great book in chunks as opposed to straight through.  As far back as I can remember, this is the first time I have gone about reading a book in this manner, so I was quite skeptical too.  You see, I am always hesitant about picking up long books.  As some of you may know, Anna Karenina has been my nemesis for years for that very reason (although I hope to tackle it in 2010).  Especially now that I have a book blog, I feel like I don’t have the luxury of reading such a long book straight through and, therefore, having less reviews for a few weeks. But when I heard the Classic Reads Book Club was featuring East of Eden, I decided to go for it.  And I thought I might as well break it up into quarters and see how it worked for me.  Obviously it’s not ideal, but for someone like me, who can get fidgety if it takes me over a week to read one book, I think it’s a good solution.  I plan on trying it again with the aforementioned Anna Karenina!

But anyway, back to the reason we’re here—part II of East of Eden.  Because I am dividing the book up into sections, the reviews will be more detailed and, therefore, may contain spoilers.

Here’s a quick synopsis: We left off with Cathy recovering and finding her way into Charles’ arms.  Part II then begins with Adam and Cathy moving to the Salinas Valley in California .  Cathy discovers she is pregnant (turns out with twins!) and she immediately tries to remedy the situation by aborting the fetus with a knitting needle.  Adam, meanwhile, is beside himself with happiness and is stopping at nothing to buy and fix up an old estate to pass down to his heirs.  He is, unbelievably, head over heels with Cathy, who really does nothing to advance his admiration; in fact, the neighbors find themselves suspicious of Cathy straight off, although they can’t quite put a finger on the problem.

So the babies are born, and what does Cathy do?  She up and leaves Adam, but not before shooting him in the shoulder first.  Cathy flees, and although the police sergeant quickly discovers her whereabouts, she pretty much disappears for good as far as Adam is concerned.  So what does Adam do without his wife?  He becomes a hot (moping!) mess.  He lets his home fall into disrepair and goes for over a year without naming his two sons.  To the point that pretty much any reader would want to step through the page and slap some sense into him.

Meanwhile, Cathy has gone back to her old profession—whoring.  She finds a whore house outside of town and immediately becomes the favorite.  The madam, Faye, begins to see Cathy as her own daughter and eventually wills her fortune to Cathy.  Knowing Cathy, you are likely able to see where this is going . . . she begins to subtly try to off Faye, and is eventually successful.

Section II ends with Cathy mourning Faye’s death and Adam naming his sons Caleb and Aaron.  As far as Adam goes, he finally seems to be over his grief and starting anew.  He had refused to see Cathy for who she really was during their marriage, instead preferring to see her with rose colored glasses.  I think the shock of having that image shattered was too much for him to bear for a time, but he had finally rounded the corner and seemed like he was in a better place.

Cathy is same old Cathy.  Last time I said that I liked her character the most and that has not changed at all.  It is not due to the fact that I am a masochistic, homicidal maniac, but rather because I find her the most fascinating character.  For awhile there I was fooled for a bit, thinking maybe she had changed once she got to the whorehouse.  The manner in which she treated Adam was reprehensible, and I figured her sweet behavior to the girls in the whorehouse was a guise, but I thought I saw a glimmer of change when it came to her relationship with Faye.  Instead, it eventually became clear that Cathy is such a great con woman that even to me, who already knew her past and how she behaves, that I believed she had made some type of transformation.

I am now past the point of believing that Cathy can ever change.  Is she inherently evil?  I’m not sure I know enough at this point to make a judgment call on that one, but I look forward to the second half of the book, because I’m hoping that will become clearer the more I read.

So how did you feel about Cathy?  Did you find her fascinating or just downright evil?

Check back here on February 22 for my thoughts on part III.

5 Responses

  1. Fascinatingly evil? Can that be my answer? She’s definitely more interesting than Aaron, who is incredibly self-centered. I think Lee is my favorite character. He’s smart, although he hides his true self, and his dream is to own a bookstore!

  2. I’ve never considered reading a book in quarters but it does sound like a great technique for large books.

  3. I loved this book. I can’t say I enjoyed many of Steinbeck’s other novels though.
    I’ve never considered reading a book in parts. I’d really like to tackle War and Peace, maybe this is the way to do it?

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