Book Reviews

East of Eden (Penguin Modern Classics) by John Steinbeck

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List Price: £9.99

 

Paperback: 640 Pages.

Published: 07 September 2000 by Penguin Classics

Edition: New Ed

ISBN: 0141185074

EAN: 9780141185071

'There is only one book to a man,' Steinbeck wrote of East of Eden, his most ambitious novel. Set in the rich farmland of the Salinas Valley, California, this powerful, often brutal novel, follows the intertwined destinies of two families - the Trasks and the Hamiltons - whose generations hopelessly re-enact 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.

Reviews

5.0 Stars5.0 Stars5.0 Stars5.0 Stars5.0 Stars  by Anne

Emotional and gripping

This book is a classic. It is a flawed classic to be fair, but it is an epic book in so many respects and aims so high that it is no wonder that on occasion it doesn’t quite make it. Its scale is grand – it covers a period of history when America is changing significantly, it has a large cast of characters, and it is a novel which is trying to make a philosophical point about human nature.

The story is set in California from the mid-nineteenth century up to the First World War and it mainly involves two families – the Hamiltons and the Trasks. It is about their relationship with one another but also their relationship with the land and the developing country. Into their idealism, their Eden, comes temptation and sin – this book is full of Christian imagery. Brother fights against brother – the two sets of brothers in the book each have names beginning with C and A, and mirror the story of Cain and Abel in the Bible to some extent. Greed plays a part but most of the problems come from the sons seeking acceptance and a blessing from their father which results in sibling rivalry, and impulsive and damaging acts.

And then there’s Cathy. Cathy is the cause of many more of the problems in the book. She is a beautifully created monster of a woman, selfish, murderous, and totally without empathy. She creates havoc in the lives of her husband and that of her sons and her narrative is given alongside that of the main male characters.

The book is about relationships and temptation and ultimately about sin. It is very emotional and the writer spares the reader little in the way of disaster or pain in the lives of his characters. The main story features Adam Trask, his wife Cathy, and their sons Caleb and Aaron, but there is also a lot about their neighbour and his family and their lives. The depiction of the period in which it is set is great and really adds to the story as we see the country change but it is really the background for the great emotional drama.

 
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