Most Memorable Settings

The challenge has been set at

I’m not sure how it all works, this tagging posts and linking up thing, but I figured that it wouldn’t hurt to give it a try on this, my not-used-very-much-at-all blog. I think I did set this one up as a writing blog. Not that my other ‘usual’ space isn’t, but the other is a bit more specific, more personal.

Asked to quote a passage that I will always associate with a beautifully crafted setting, I have to refer to American writer, John Steinbeck.

The opening paragraphs of Of Mice and Men read like poetry:

A few miles south of Soledad, the Salinas River drops in close to the hillside bank and runs deep and green. The water is warm too, for it has slipped twinkling over the yellow sands in the sunlightbefore reaching the narrow pool. On one side of the river the golden foothill slopes curve up to the strong and rocky Gabilan Mountains, but on the valley side the water is lined with trees- willows fresh and green with every spring, carrying in their lower leaf junctures the debris of the winter’s flooding; and sycamores with mottled, white, recumbent limbs and branches that arch over the pool. On the sandy bank under the trees the leaves lie deep and so crisp that a lizard makes a great skittering if he runs among them. Rabbits come out of the brush to sit on the sand in the evening, and the damp flats are covered with the night tracks of ‘coons, and with the spread pads of dogs from the ranches, and with the split-wedge tracks of deer that come to drink in the dark.

The graceful stillness of this place is almost tangible. It makes me desperate to feel the warmth of the water, the dry heat of the dirt tracks and the cool of the Sycamore shade.

When a writer has described the natural world this tenderly, this delicately, it stirs up a sort of ache in me that I find very difficult to explain or understand. The closest I get is to compare this ache to a feeling of homesickness. The tug of something tinged with desperation and shades of sadness. Something in descriptions of the natural world makes me long to return somewhere I often haven’t been.

There are so many other examples I could give… Hemmingway creates settings to die for, and Khaled Hosseni whose ‘Then The Mountains Echoed’ I’m reading at the moment, is an incredible writer who can conjure up scenes so palpably that I can imagine the sights and smells of Afghanistan as though they are part of a memory.

14 thoughts on “Most Memorable Settings

  1. Kathryn:

    I’m so glad you took a chance on us your choice of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men for the Spectacular Settings Challenge was inspired.

    ” water. . .slipped twinkling over the yellow sands in the sunlight
    sycamores with mottled, white, recumbent limbs
    damp flats
    night tracks”
    John Steinbeck’s words, and then your own: “tinged with desperation and shades of sadness” definitely poetic.

    Thank you Kathryn for being part of the WEP Spectacular Settings Challenge, I hope you’ll return in October, for the Halloween challenge.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Yolanda! Although initially a bit scared of joining, I feel so welcomed here and have loved this challenge. Setting is one of my favourite things… Thanks for your words of encouragement!



  2. Hello there Kathryn. Looks like everything went well after all. Who could ever forget Steinbeck’s writing? I’m amazed no one else thought of him. I adore the passage you wrote. I actually used it as a passage to analyse for my writing group some time ago. And I’m a huge Hemingway fan, not to mention Hossini–second time ‘…Mountains Echoed’ has been mentioned.

    Thank you for jumping into this challenge. Sorry you had so much trouble with the link up.

    Denise 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Denise. Thank you so much for all your help in getting me linked here. I really loved the challenge and kind of wish that I’d attempted to write my own setting piece… Perhaps I still will.
      It’s always so lovely when someone else likes the same things that you do! Feels like a sort of connection of souls.
      There’s another amazing bit in Of Mice ad Men which has to be an all time favourite… Within the context it’s breathtaking simplicity makes me curl! In the barn, nearing the end of the novella, Steinbeck describes how a single moment in time seems to just stretch out. I’ll have to find it!
      Thanks again for your help!



  3. I read Of Mine and Men a few years ago for the first time – loved it. 🙂 It’s interesting for me, reading classics that I probably should have read at least a decade and a half ago first off. It’s like I finally get things others have been talking about for years, understand literary references that made no sense, etc. It’s a good feeling 🙂


    • Yes Trisha. I think it’s almost like a child discovering a new world… Something very beautiful about suddenly connecting references and lighting up understanding!
      Thanks for passing by!


  4. Hi Kathryn.
    That passage from Steinbeck’s novel is really beautiful.
    Another Steinbeck setting that I love, is La Paz in his story The Pearl.
    I have Khaled Hosseni’s book on my list and I’m really looking forward to reading it.
    Nice to meet you via the WEPFF Challenge.

    Liked by 1 person

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