East of Eden

Review From User :

"All great and precious things are lonely."
Such an amazing book. An instant all time favourite.

I'm sure you've heard of this book. Often touted as one of the "greatest novels of all time" or "books you must read before you die". For some reason, I've been putting it off. Maybe because I was made to study Of Mice and Men to death in school, or maybe because I thought The Grapes of Wrath was a little overrated. But I've been missing out.

A closer look should have told me that. Because I love family sagas. Epic, multi-generational tales filled with rich characterization and plenty of drama. The House of the Spirits is a great example. These books really pull me into the characters' lives. I get a sense that I've grown up with them, gone through each hardship with them, and come out the other side. They always leave me feeling emotional.

East of Eden is a great book from every angle.

The characters come bounding off the pages, offering a sort of Cain and Abel retelling set before, during, and after the great westward migration of early modern America (it's no coincidence that the Trask brothers are called Charles and Adam).

Steinbeck could not have more vividly painted the Salinas Valley in our minds if he had literally dragged us there in person. It's a beautiful, dusty, challenging place to be and into it comes the story of the Trasks and the Hamiltons. I cannot stress enough how well-drawn these characters are as we move with them through poverty, war, wealth, murder, love and lies.
"But the Hebrew word, the word timshel-'Thou mayest'- that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if 'Thou mayest'-it is also true that 'Thou mayest not."
It's rare that a book is both a thoughtful historical tale with strong themes, and a fast-paced, highly-readable romp through the lives of people who are smart, naive, calculating, lovable, mean, selfish and confused. It's surprising how often the terms "easily readable" and "masterpiece" are mutually exclusive - but that is not the case here. I couldn't put it down.

I just... don't even know how to fully summarize my thoughts and feelings. East of Eden is clever, it's "deep", but it's also so damn enjoyable. I loved all the relationships and conflicts between the characters. And I especially loved Cathy - the kind of twisted female character I'd expect Gillian Flynn to create.

If you're looking for an intelligent classic - read it. If you're looking for an exciting pageturner - read it.

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Set in the rich farmland of California’s Salinas Valley, this sprawling and often brutal novel follows the intertwined destinies of two families – the Trasks and the Hamiltons – whose generations helplessly reenact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel. Here Steinbeck created some of his most memorable characters and explored his most enduring themes: the mystery of identity; the inexplicability of love; and the murderous consequences of love’s absence.

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