East of Eden

East of Eden

Book - 2016
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This sprawling and often brutal novel, set in the rich farmlands of California's Salinas Valley, 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.
Publisher: New York : Penguin Books, 2016.
ISBN: 9780143129486
0143129481
Characteristics: 601 pages ; 20 cm.
Study Program: Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.3 34.0 58698.

Opinion

From Library Staff

One of my favorite American classics by the Nobel and Pulitzer prize winning author. Don't let the length or complexity of the characters deter you; this one is a page-turner!


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SPPL_Betsy Mar 14, 2018

John Steinbeck sets this family saga in California’s Salinas Valley, the same region his mother’s family settled after leaving Ireland. In fact, the Hamilton family portrayed in East of Eden is based on Steinbeck’s maternal side of the family, and he can be found within the pages as a minor character. The second family East of Eden follows is the Trasks, a fictional family that Steinbeck created in part to represent biblical stories such as Adam and Eve (Adam and Kate Trask), and Cain and Abel (Cal and Aron Trask). The Hamiltons and Trasks are intertwined throughout this epic novel after the patriarchs of each family, Samuel Hamilton and Adam Trask, befriend one another and remain neighbors throughout much of the book.

East of Eden is a classic novel that explores themes such as free will, good versus evil, light versus dark, and hatred versus love. At the same time, Steinbeck writes about the history and geography of the Salinas Valley, and the battles fought within and outside of the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries. It is a piece of literature that will appeal to fans of classics, and historical fiction. Those who enjoy literary fiction will appreciate Steinbeck's richly descriptive writing style and his intense psychological analysis of multiple characters.

t
travelerinspace
Aug 16, 2017

A rather long book, but by far my favorite Steinbeck novel. Very descriptive detailing of the families in the story across three generations.

a
Andrew Kyle Bacon
Aug 14, 2017

(very slight spoilers contained herein) Each summer I try to undertake a somewhat rigorous (rigorous for me anyway), reading program which culminates in reading an epic tome of one sort or another. Last summer my tome was Dostoyevsky's "The Idiot," and this year the selection was Steinbeck's "East of Eden."

All at once this book is overwrought, excessive, self-indulgent, and marvelous. The very basic concepts of its narrative stem from the book of Genesis, although attempting to make too many comparisons will likely cause one to read too much into the text. But the basic DNA of Genesis is found here and Steinbeck uses it effortlessly to craft a story that stretches decades and generations.

Primarily the story is concerned with two families: the Hamiltons and the Trasks. The Hamiltons, as it turns out, are the forerunners to the Steinbecks, giving this novel a slight (however fictitious) autobiographical quality (certainly Steinbeck himself appears in the novel). The Trasks, however, are the central focus of the novel, with their story largely be concerned and focused into the man of Adam Trask and his two sons, Caleb and Aaron.

The great flaw of this novel, unfortunately, is where the Hamiltons are involved, or, rather, where their story takes precedent over the novel's actual narrative. For chapters at a time the story revolves around the Hamiltons for no reason, it would seem, other than they are personally interesting to the author. The real dynamic force of the novel is completely held within the Trask family and their narrative. The involvement of the Hamiltons works best when they remain secondary characters. Yet somehow this great flaw seems even more so to connect to the book to its source: the book of Genesis, and its narrative detailing the origins of humankind. The difference, of course, being that the whole population of the world is not singularly descended from the Hamiltons and the Trasks.

But this greatest of flaws somehow still empowers the book, driving you beyond the scope of the Trasks and yet ever you remain zeroed in on this story which ultimately culminates in the twin brothers Cal and Aron (we are told that Aaron likes to spell his name with one A and not two). Steinbeck seems to reverse much of the narrative of Genesis, beginning with the birth of Adam and his brother Charles in a relationship that seems inspired by that of Jacob and Esau or even Isaac and Ishmael. After this it moves onto Adam discovering his Eve, marrying her, and her reveling against the man. Here, rather than man plunging the world into sin from a spiritual standpoint, Steinbeck takes a more literal interpretation and has the woman plunge man into sin. From their relationship comes the twins Cal and Aron, the two more charismatic and likable characters in the entire book, and we know beyond a shadow of a doubt how their story must end.

When it finally comes to the point and Cal says the line we've all been waiting for, "How do I know? Am I supposed to look after him?", it is incredibly satisfying. It seems as though through this single novel Steinbeck set out to redeem Cain from the murder of his brother, and I must say that he gives it a splendid try. Because the end of all things man has agency in his life and this side of death he can make of his choices whatever he wishes. His parents may leave a lasting imprint on him, but ultimately each man decides what kind of man he is.

"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..."

t
TEENREVIEWBOARD
Jul 18, 2017

East of Eden is one of my favourite books of all time. It is perhaps Steinbeck’s greatest novel. The characters in the novel are developed in such a manner that it feels personal. The story is a multigenerational tale that follows the lives of the Trask family. The characterization in the novel is superb -- the conflicts, relationships, struggles, and upbringings are all described in great detail. The pace of the book is excellent. It is face-paced and ideas are not drawn out for too long. Steinbeck writes enough to create a personal relationship between the reader and characters, while not writing too much so that it becomes tedious and boring. The overlaying theme is the concept that humanity has the ability to make good and bad choices. Each individual has the ability to decide for themselves, instead of the individual being destined to be a certain way. East of Eden is a classic and must-read for anyone as it has themes and characters that are relatable to anyone.
- @SuperSilk of the Teen Review Board of the Hamilton Public Library

c
clairemars
Jun 05, 2017

I had been putting off reading this book, since I had previously abandoned reading Grapes of Wrath because of the slow, dry style of writing in the beginning; however, East of Eden was captivating from the first few chapters. The story builds up the background of the family, and the reader doesn't hear about the protagonist until a couple hundred pages into the book. The writing style was engaging, the plot was interesting and original, and the characters were nicely fleshed-out. I wanted there to be more connection to Genesis, and perhaps some less obvious ones (maybe there was and I just didn't pick up on them). Overall though, excellent read.

m
melanith
Nov 27, 2016

This was a long book and I finished it!! Yay! It was a good book but slow at times. It was a decent read. A classic and I am happy I got through it. Not an adventurous or intriguing book but a good saga. If you want a good classic it is a good choice.

c
cknightkc
Sep 05, 2016

Having never seen the film adaptations, I was totally unfamiliar with this novel when I began reading it for my book group, but having finished it, I can well understand why EAST OF EDEN is called a masterwork of American literature. It is a sweeping multi-generational saga set in the beautiful Salinas valley of northern California. Author John Steinbeck weaves his own family history into a plot based on the Biblical story of Cain and Abel, and creates memorable, complex characters including one of the most callous, despicable villains ever written. It’s a story of the struggle between good and evil, but ultimately it’s about choice. This novel incorporates many elements: family relationships, humor, jealousy, greed, suspense, murder, sex, love, conflict, tragedy, and redemption, among others. While a long book, it’s not a difficult read, but one I would caution to take your time with in order to fully appreciate Steinbeck’s rich descriptions and writing, such as the following: “…Samuel rode lightly on top of a book and he balanced happily among ideas the way a man rides white rapids in a canoe. But Tom got into a book, crawled and groveled between the covers, tunneled like a mole among the thoughts, and came up with the book all over his face and hands.” This quote perfectly sums up my experience, like Tom, reading this remarkable book.

TSCPL_ChrisB Jun 02, 2016

I devoured this book. I've scoured its pages for every nuance possible. I've read Steinbeck's journal written at the time of this book. I've read the criticism. The reviews. I've made it a point to read every book Steinbeck said influenced this one. I've written several essays about this novel, including a forty-page paper that went toward my creative writing thesis. My first tattoo will be the word "Timshel". I own four copies, each for a different room. My kids were fortunate to be paired with tooth fairies named Abra and Aron. Whenever I hit a wall in my own writing, I pick up a copy of this book, read a random page, and find inspiration.

All that to say--EAST OF EDEN IS THE GREATEST BOOK EVER WRITTEN.
(or at least I tend to think so)

i
iliveatthelibrary
Dec 16, 2015

This book opened a stained-glass window into my own soul. Amazing writing. And much to say about growing up. I think this is a great book for young men and older men alike.

w
wiltonsugiyama
Sep 18, 2015

I read this novel about every ten years - first, when I was twenty. I take new things from it every time I read it. This time, I took more from the dialogues between Lee and Samuel; possibly because I listened to an audio version of the book, the cadence and nuance of the words gave it a deeper meaning. My favorite of Steinbeck's, after Grapes, of course. I will no doubt revisit this ten years hence.

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c
cknightkc
Sep 05, 2016

"And she picked her words as one picks flowers in a mixed garden and took her time choosing."

c
cknightkc
Sep 05, 2016

“…Samuel rode lightly on top of a book and he balanced happily among ideas the way a man rides white rapids in a canoe. But Tom got into a book, crawled and groveled between the covers, tunneled like a mole among the thoughts, and came up with the book all over his face and hands.”

cals_Leah Oct 05, 2015

“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.”

b
becker
Apr 16, 2013

"I have no bent toward gods. But I have a new love for that glittering instrument, the human soul. It is a lovely and unique thing in the universe."

EuSei Feb 21, 2013

Socialism is just another form of religion, and thus delusional. John Steinbeck

d
dera444
Oct 06, 2012

If you or I must choose between two courses of thought or action, we should remember our dying and try so to live that our death brings no pleasure to the world.

b
becker
Sep 21, 2012

“I believe a strong woman may be stronger than a man, particularly if she happens to have love in her heart. I guess a loving woman is indestructible.”
― John Steinbeck, East of Eden

s
salokin88
May 04, 2009

And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual. This is what I am and what I am about.

lilybelle Jul 29, 2008

"Perhaps the best conversationalist in the world is the man who helps others to talk."

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angrytoast
Mar 12, 2011

angrytoast thinks this title is suitable for 10 years and over

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lilybelle Jul 29, 2008

A classic. Multi-generational epic about love, siblings and the battle of good and evil. Set in Salinas, California it is a retelling of the Book of Genesis

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