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East of Eden PDF, ePub eBook


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Title: East of Eden
Author: John Steinbeck
Publisher: Published 2002 by Penguin Books (first published September 1952)
ISBN: 9780142000656
Status : FREE Rating :
4.6 out of 5

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In his journal, Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck called East of Eden “the first book,” and indeed it has the primordial power and simplicity of myth. 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 A In his journal, Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck called East of Eden “the first book,” and indeed it has the primordial power and simplicity of myth. 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. Adam Trask came to California from the East to farm and raise his family on the new rich land. But the birth of his twins, Cal and Aaron, brings his wife to the brink of madness, and Adam is left alone to raise his boys to manhood. One boy thrives nurtured by the love of all those around him; the other grows up in loneliness enveloped by a mysterious darkness. First published in 1952, East of Eden is the work in which Steinbeck created his most mesmerizing characters and explored his most enduring themes: the mystery of identity, the enecplicability of love, and the murderous consequences of love's absence. A masterpiece of Steinbeck's later years, East of Eden is a powerful and vastly ambitious novel that is at once a family saga and a modern retelling of the Book of Genesis. --jacket flap

30 review for East of Eden

  1. 5 out of 5

    Emily May

    “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 fami “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. Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube | Store

  2. 4 out of 5

    Frank

    This book is mind blowing. It is John Steinbeck at his sharpest. He said that every author really only has one "book," and that all of his books leading up to East of Eden were just practice--Eden would be his book. I could write a summary of the book, but it would be more trouble than it's worth. You will often hear it referred to as a "modern retelling of the Genesis story of Cain and Abel" but that is too simplistic. Steinbeck takes the story of Cain and Abel and makes Cain (in the form of Ca This book is mind blowing. It is John Steinbeck at his sharpest. He said that every author really only has one "book," and that all of his books leading up to East of Eden were just practice--Eden would be his book. I could write a summary of the book, but it would be more trouble than it's worth. You will often hear it referred to as a "modern retelling of the Genesis story of Cain and Abel" but that is too simplistic. Steinbeck takes the story of Cain and Abel and makes Cain (in the form of Cal Trask) the sympathetic character. Cal Trask does not act destructively for the sake of destruction, but he is desperately clawing for approval and love from his father, Adam, who prefers Cal's twin brother, Aron. The story isn't that pat, though--Cal and Aron really don't make their entrances as major characters until the last quarter of the 600 page novel. So, to say that this book is simply the retelling of Cain and Abel is to oversimplify the book. The main theme of the book is the desire within everyone for love, and how this desire can make people turn to destructive behavior. This book has been criticized for being too verbose, meandering, inconsistently paced, and heavy handed in its parallel with the story of Cain and Abel. Yes, it is verbose and meandering, but that's Steinbeck. It gives a full picture of the Salinas valley. It gives you insights and perspectives you might not otherwise have. If anything, Steinbeck's constant forays into unrelated sidebars give the reader a break in pace, a rest that makes the more important parts of the books feel as though they flow more smoothly. As for the parallel with Cain and Abel, it is heavy-handed. That being said, the heavy-handedness didn't bother me. Going in to the novel with the expectation of it being a retelling of Cain and Abel (at least for some of the narrative) is enough to make the obvious references to Cain and Abel seem natural. If Steinbeck had given the impression that he was trying to hide the parallel, it would have been insulting. But Steinbeck isn't trying to hide it--he makes it clear that the story of Cain and Abel are an integral part of his story. East of Eden is an amazing novel. Its strong points more than compensate for the very few shortcomings. Steinbeck is such a tremendous writer that his shortcomings become strengths. I highly recommend it.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    I hate this book. Hate. Ponderous, pretentious, melodramatic, self-satisfied, patronizing to its readers, with ultimately nothing to say. Can be summarized thus: a bunch of people with no formal education whatsoever sit around discussing the time they read the Old Testament in Hebrew. They then tell us all how to live. Uh...right. I knew we were in trouble with the unbelievably lame introduction -- some forced, self-congratulatory metaphor about a box, if memory serves -- but it's hard to believ I hate this book. Hate. Ponderous, pretentious, melodramatic, self-satisfied, patronizing to its readers, with ultimately nothing to say. Can be summarized thus: a bunch of people with no formal education whatsoever sit around discussing the time they read the Old Testament in Hebrew. They then tell us all how to live. Uh...right. I knew we were in trouble with the unbelievably lame introduction -- some forced, self-congratulatory metaphor about a box, if memory serves -- but it's hard to believe it actually got worse from there. In any event, with its smug aura of "Here you will find WISDOM," it's certainly no wonder that it's right up Oprah's alley. The fact that people worship this misbegotten mess of a book as they might worship pieces of the True Cross is just plain depressing. Apparently the way to literary immortality is to give 'em a decent narrative, throw in some breathless nonsense about free will and the Bible, and don't forget to puff out your chest and tell everyone that you've written a masterpiece. Gack. For this they gave him the Nobel Prize? ******** After deleting I don't know how many comments calling me names and getting several pieces of hate email, I'm adding this addendum, because it will save both me and a bunch of other people from wasting time: I'll delete any comments that I consider abusive or that I think constitute ad hominem arguments, so do keep that in mind if you're considering posting a long screed.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    Steinbeck's classic East of Eden is a masterpiece and one of his finest books. It tells the history of Steinbeck's own family, the Hamiltons, and that of the Trask family. The epic is set in Steinbeck's native Salinas Valley in California and the beauty of the region is described in endless, passionate detail. The characters are all beautifully drawn and the story is captivating. I'll add some quotes here before returning the book to the library, but it was extremely pleasurable to read cover to Steinbeck's classic East of Eden is a masterpiece and one of his finest books. It tells the history of Steinbeck's own family, the Hamiltons, and that of the Trask family. The epic is set in Steinbeck's native Salinas Valley in California and the beauty of the region is described in endless, passionate detail. The characters are all beautifully drawn and the story is captivating. I'll add some quotes here before returning the book to the library, but it was extremely pleasurable to read cover to cover. For example, concerning faith: "The proofs that God does not exist are vert strong, but in lots of people they are not as strong as the feeling that He does." (P.69) Concerning monsters: "I believe there are monsters born in the world to human parents...To a criminal, honesty is foolish. You must not forget that a monster is only a variation, and that to a monster the norm is monstrous." (P.71) On progress: "in our time,, mass or collective production has entered our economics, our politics, and even our religion, so that some nations have substituted the idea collective for the idea of God. This in my time is the danger." (P.131) On racism and dumbing down, Lee: "If I should go up to a lady or gentleman, for instance, and speak as I am doing now, I wouldn't be understood...Pidgen they expect, pidgin they'll listen to. But English from me they don't listen to, and so they don't understand it." (P.161) Time flies: "The clock struck nine deliberate strokes and they were swallowed up." (P.449) Frustration with time scheduling: "One thing late or early cab disturb everything around us, and the disturbance runs outward in bands like waves from a dropped stone in a quiet pool." (P.530) East of Eden uses a plethora of Biblical analogies starting with that in the title referring to the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden - here Adam is expulsed from his home (though it was hardly a paradise) and thrust into the hell of a senseless war. Like veterans of other senseless wars, he comes back to a civilization that does not appreciate or understand what he lived through and he lives maladjusted for most of the rest of his life. His conflict with his brother Charles (Note: most of the major conflicts involve character names starting with an "A" (Adam, Aron, Abra) with character names starting with a "C" (Charles, Cal, Catherine)) is epic and sets many of the books major themes into play: rivalry over sex and power, jealousy, favoritism. There are many parallels throughout the book to Biblical stories and repetitive behaviors. This begs the question on whether anything is learned? I would say that despite the tragedy at the end, Lee does give us a sense of progress by taking the long view. It is significant that the last word in the book spoken by Adam is that which Lee and his Chinese scholars worked on together from Hebrew: Timshel "thou mayest". Steinbeck was a masterful writer who beautifully evoked the Salinas Valley of his youth populating it with endearing and occasionally frightful characters that bring history alive. I would have to reread Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men, but East of Eden is certainly one of Steinbeck's best if not the very best.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    I have no words to describe what this novel did to my reading self! It was my first Steinbeck, and it made me fall in love with his writing, his ideas, his cry for individual freedom and social justice. It made me ache for goodness in a world of evil, and it made me respect the power of storytelling to explain the inexplicable difficulties of family life. It was the first time I felt scared of a fictional character! I don't think I have ever been so deeply shaken as by Cathy/Kate, and she remain I have no words to describe what this novel did to my reading self! It was my first Steinbeck, and it made me fall in love with his writing, his ideas, his cry for individual freedom and social justice. It made me ache for goodness in a world of evil, and it made me respect the power of storytelling to explain the inexplicable difficulties of family life. It was the first time I felt scared of a fictional character! I don't think I have ever been so deeply shaken as by Cathy/Kate, and she remains the villain with whom I compare all other literary villains. And yet, she fascinated me, she was like a snake hypnotising a mouse, and she merged the mythical ideas of Eve and the serpent into one powerful person - destructive and beautiful, exciting and dangerous. Yet despite the biblical references which dominate the narrative, the monumental family saga has more resemblance with a Greek tragedy than with a Christian tale: facing the shame of failure, most characters choose to exit the stage rather than gaining redemption through suffering. Their lifeline is the freedom of CHOICE, not dogmatic obedience: "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 idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual. This is what I am and what I am about." Of all the books I don't have time to reread, this is the one that is tempting me most - like a snake-Eve pointing towards a shiny apple - this is where you will find the knowledge of good and evil, and it is your choice if you read it or not! It will make you shiver - with fear and admiration for the human imagination!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Dolors

    East of Eden is a uniquely fragmented hotchpotch. A fantastical fable, a retelling of the biblical tale of the original sin, a documented testimony of early settlers in the Salinas Valley through the perspective of three generations, a fictionalized biography of Steinbeck’s own grandfather, a subversive political text, an essay that blends modern philosophy with ancient wisdom. It’s probable that Steinbeck’s ambitious scope and his need to reach universal meaning might encumber the narration with East of Eden is a uniquely fragmented hotchpotch. A fantastical fable, a retelling of the biblical tale of the original sin, a documented testimony of early settlers in the Salinas Valley through the perspective of three generations, a fictionalized biography of Steinbeck’s own grandfather, a subversive political text, an essay that blends modern philosophy with ancient wisdom. It’s probable that Steinbeck’s ambitious scope and his need to reach universal meaning might encumber the narration with some faults. The pace, the tone and the structure are uneven. The book starts off in the first-person narrative, ostensibly Steinbeck himself, only to suddenly disappear and give way to an anonymous omniscient narrator. Women appear opaque recipients of inherited constraint and duty. Gender is a question to be typified. American history is treated as a casual backdrop without cohesive continuity. Racism is approached superficially and drawn to easy stereotyping. Characters are not constricted by their roles. Some of them remain indecipherable. The causes that lead them to act a certain way are not fully acknowledged. It’s the moral dilemma and the consequences that matter, but it’s precisely the freedom Steinbeck grants to his characters that enables the allegorical quality of this tale to take its direct flight to the reader’s heart. Truth is I couldn’t have cared less about the formal delivery of this book. My heart surrendered willingly and was bleeding from the first page. Because it is Steinbeck’s aim that is faultless. Because his ideals, which refuse to be pigeonholed by religion, double morale or self-complacency, and sincere passion shine through the naked, earnest prose that makes the stories of the Trasks and the Hamiltons a powerful parable that pulsates with unwavering faith in humanity. Steinbeck reconstructs the architecture of the human spirit with all its weaknesses and cruelties, defies dogmatic predeterminism and elevates his characters’ struggles beyond any restrictive literary scheme. In placing the responsibility of the actions on human beings instead of an almighty presence, he is challenging the reader to call into question his own beliefs on fate, free will and guilt. Hatred, envy, revenge, self-doubts and misguided fears haunt the heroes of this story, and they fight the dehumanizing effects of such visceral feelings with the only weapon Steinbeck approves of: love. Love in the widest sense of the word. Fraternal, filial, platonic, romantic. Much can be achieved if one is courageous enough to love even when rejection shatters wistful expectations. A childless man can have a daughter, genetic predisposition can be overpowered, instinctive meanness controlled, the gravest crime can be forgiven. So many questions and no certain answers. In all his wisdom, Steinbeck exposes his high principles and allows the reader to decide for himself. The possibility to choose, to pick this path or the other when we are at a crossroads is the most precious gift we are given along with life. We cannot choose to be made part of this world, of this bewildering place we seldom understand, but we can exert our goodwill and trust that others will do the same. Love might cripple us, might make us fragile and defenseless, but it is the only way to reach the end of the journey without regret or remorse. Exile can’t befall on us if we dare to love. Paradise might not exist, but Steinbeck proves that loving others selflessly is the safe path to save us from ourselves.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    Very easy for me to rate this book 5 stars. It is amazing. There is so much in it and it is not hard to read. It just tells it like it is and does it so well. It is like a high priced, high quality buffet with lots of different stations. At each of those stations is a main table with an awesome featured food (thick cut prime rib, chocolate fondue fountain, Mongolian BBQ bowl, etc.). In layman's terms, there is SO MUCH awesome story here with a HUGE payoff every 50 pages or so. I am very satisfied Very easy for me to rate this book 5 stars. It is amazing. There is so much in it and it is not hard to read. It just tells it like it is and does it so well. It is like a high priced, high quality buffet with lots of different stations. At each of those stations is a main table with an awesome featured food (thick cut prime rib, chocolate fondue fountain, Mongolian BBQ bowl, etc.). In layman's terms, there is SO MUCH awesome story here with a HUGE payoff every 50 pages or so. I am very satisfied with the story I got - full of literature! Oh, and this book has one of the most heartless and despicable villains ever put on paper. I recommend this book to anyone that wants to read a decent story told very well. This has solidified with me that Steinbeck is a literary genius - cannot be denied!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Luca Ambrosino

    English (East of Eden) / Italiano «The Salinas Valley is in Northern California. It is a long narrow swale between two ranges of mountains, and the Salinas River winds and twists up the center until it falls at last into Monterey Bay»"East of Eden" is a powerful novel, thick with biblical reference, in which the characters seem real and not fictional, protagonists of a generational saga about good and evil. About pure hatrded and unconditional love. You will love all the characters of the novel, English (East of Eden) / Italiano «The Salinas Valley is in Northern California. It is a long narrow swale between two ranges of mountains, and the Salinas River winds and twists up the center until it falls at last into Monterey Bay»"East of Eden" is a powerful novel, thick with biblical reference, in which the characters seem real and not fictional, protagonists of a generational saga about good and evil. About pure hatrded and unconditional love. You will love all the characters of the novel, every last one of them. You will love the storytelling power of John Steinbeck. You will love his way of representing hope, falsehood, sadness. And you will hate, as if you were under the effect of a sick addiction, the moment you finish the book.In my humble opinion this is the best Steinbeck. And also according to the author opinion, since he said that everything he did before was in preparation to this novel. "East of Eden" is the Great American Novel.Vote: 10 «La Valle del Salinas, nella California settentrionale, è una lunga gola stretta tra due catene montuose: il fiume si snoda e serpeggia nel centro, finchè non si getta nella baia di Monterey»“La Valle dell'Eden” è un libro potente, denso di riferimenti biblici, nel quale muovono i passi personaggi che sembrano reali e non di finzione, protagonisti di una epopea generazionale sul bene e sul male. Sull’odio puro e sull’amore incondizionato. Amerete tutti i personaggi di questo romanzo, dal primo all’ultimo. Amerete la capacità narrativa di John Steinbeck. Amerete il suo modo di rappresentare la speranza, la falsità, la tristezza. E odierete, come foste sotto l’effetto di una morbosa dipendenza, il momento in cui avrete finito di leggere.A mio modesto parere il miglior Steinbeck. E anche a detta dello stesso autore, visto che affermò che tutto quanto fatto prima era solo in preparazione a questo romanzo. E' la "Valle dell'Eden" il Grande Romanzo Americano.Voto: 10

  9. 5 out of 5

    Huda Yahya

    روح الإنسان الشيء الجميل الفريد في هذا العالم دائما ما تهاجم ولا تهزم أبدا لي تاريخ قديم مع شتاينبك وهو من أوائل من قرأتُ لهم بالإنجليزية وقد أدمنته على الفور تستطيع أن تقول أنه فهمني جيدا ففهمته جيدا وأحببت حقا ما فهمت هذه هي الرواية الأهم والأشهر وإن لم تكن الأقرب لقلبي كما هي رواياته العظيمة الأخرى اللؤلؤة،عناقيد الغضب،ورجال وفئران ;;;;;;;;;;; جنة عدن هي المكان الذي تبدأ منه كل الحكايات كل ما هو قادم وكل ما هو كان الخطوة الأولى في تاريخ الإنسانية الخطيئة الأولى الصراع الأول "دم أخي لطخ يدي" شرقي عدن -المكان ال روح الإنسان الشيء الجميل الفريد في هذا العالم دائما ما تهاجم ولا تهزم أبدا‏ لي تاريخ قديم مع شتاينبك وهو من أوائل من قرأتُ لهم بالإنجليزية وقد أدمنته على الفور تستطيع أن تقول أنه فهمني جيدا ففهمته جيدا وأحببت حقا ما فهمت هذه هي الرواية الأهم والأشهر وإن لم تكن الأقرب لقلبي كما هي رواياته العظيمة الأخرى‏ اللؤلؤة،عناقيد الغضب،ورجال وفئران ;;;;;;;;;;; جنة عدن هي المكان الذي تبدأ منه كل الحكايات كل ما هو قادم وكل ما هو كان الخطوة الأولى في تاريخ الإنسانية الخطيئة الأولى الصراع الأول ‏"دم أخي لطخ يدي"‏ شرقي عدن ‏-المكان الذي ذهب قايين إليه بعد قتله أخاه ومحادثته مع الرب‏ المكان الذي يبدو أننا جميعا نذهب إليه إن عاجلا أو أجلا‏ ;;;;;;;;;;; هناك أشباح في الخلفية تطوف تصنع من اللاواقعي الأشد واقعية تجبرك على الإنصات لهمساتها الحكيمة يختلطا الجد والهزل تندمج زوجة لي المتخيلة مع دخان ورقات النقود التي يحرقها كال بينما الغرفة الرمادية في الخلفية تكاد ستائرها تصيح صيحات الفزع الذي يغزو كايت ببطء حتى يبتلعها‏ ;;;;;;;;;;; هي رواية كلاسيكية مخلدة تعطي من العظمة أكثر مما تعطي من الإبهار يتشابك قدري عائلتين يسكنان وادي بسيط تتناظر جبال الوادي مع حضن الأم هذا الحضن الذي لا ينفك يحرم منه الأبطال بطريقة أو بأخرى يعلمك شتاينبيك كيف تكون أكثر انسانية بخطاياك لا دونها.. ;;;;;;;;;;; الشخصيات المعقدة في الرواية رسمت حقا ببراعة أحببت تشارلز بشدة بكل شره وجنونه وعقليته الفاسدة‏ و برغم كل ما فعلَته ،فإنني قد أحببت كاثي قطعة الثلج التي ما إن تلمسها حتى تتجمد بلا أمل في الخلاص إنها قطعة من روح الشر ‏ بل خلاصته إن أردتُ أن أكون دقيقة وقد رسمها شتاينبك كما لم يرسم شخصية من قبل صنع كائنا جديدا ربما لم تصادفه في رواية قبلا معالجته لها تستحق التأمل حقا أما هذه الثنائية التي صنعها قرب نهايتها ‏ بينها وبين أليس بلاد العجائب فهي صدقا من أجمل ما قرأت‏ ;;;;;;;;;;; شخصيتي المفضلة هي لي الطباخ الصيني الساحر بكل تأكيد لقد أمتعني بحكمته بنقاشاته بحواراته الداخلية بطريقته في التصرف بعمقه وعاطفته وأصوله الغامضة الممسوسة بشياطين لا مرئية كان كل ما لي يفعله يبدو وكأن هناك قداسة من نوع ما تسبغ عليه ;;;;;;;;;;; هي ملحمة حب وحرب تجمع رائع من الشخصيات الإنسانية والتي تحارب قدرها ويحاربها وينتصر دوما الأدب الجميل

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽

    East of Eden, a 1952 novel, was a long, sprawling, sometimes slow but often very intense read. Steinbeck considered it his magnum opus. It begins at the turn of the century in Connecticut, telling about the difficult childhood of Adam Trask and the pains and troubles caused him by his half-brother Charles. Adam meets and marries Cathy Ames, whom he blindly loves, but who is a truly evil, completely self-centered woman at heart. They move out to the Salinas Valley in California, where they have t East of Eden, a 1952 novel, was a long, sprawling, sometimes slow but often very intense read. Steinbeck considered it his magnum opus. It begins at the turn of the century in Connecticut, telling about the difficult childhood of Adam Trask and the pains and troubles caused him by his half-brother Charles. Adam meets and marries Cathy Ames, whom he blindly loves, but who is a truly evil, completely self-centered woman at heart. They move out to the Salinas Valley in California, where they have twin sons, Aron and Cal ... and the Cain and Abel motif repeats itself in a second generation. Cathy abandons her young family and heads off to (secretly) be a prostitute in a nearby town, adopting the name of Kate. Aron and Cal grow to be young men: Cal is wild and reckless, Aron dependable and good-hearted, always believing the best of others. To make things even more complicated Steinbeck weaves in a storyline about the Samuel Hamilton family, Irish immigrants ... and Steinbeck's actual ancestors. So often, Steinbeck's insightful comments on a person or a situation struck me deeply; he has a marvelous way with words. He also has a gift for writing complex and conflicted characters, though it's not always exercised fully, especially with some of his female characters. However, Abra, Aron's girlfriend, is a wonderful character, especially in her resistance to Aron's false idealization of her and her parents' focus on social position and wealth. The Cain and Abel theme, which shows up with Adam and Charles and resurfaces in the second generation with Aron and Cal, was fascinating: not just the good and evil dichotomy (though the evil is mixed with some good, and is often more just human weakness), but also other echoes of the original Biblical story. For example, the Cain characters work with farming and the land, like the original Cain; Abel was a shepherd and Aron wants to be a priest (a spiritual shepherd), and so on. I loved how Steinbeck humanizes the Cain characters and emphasizes how we all have a choice in how we act and react to events in our lives."The American Standard translation orders men to triumph over sin, and you can call sin ignorance. The King James translation makes a promise in 'Thou shalt,' meaning that men will surely triumph over sin. 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.' "I really enjoyed how Steinbeck wove his own family history into the pages of this book: Samuel Hamilton, the prophetic Irishman and Steinbeck's grandfather Olive Hamilton Steinbeck (Steinbeck's mother) and her famous -- and crazy! -- airplane ride My favorite character was Lee, the Chinese servant of the Trask family. He grows from hiding behind his queue and pidgin English to full acceptance of himself. He gives sound advice to the various Trask family members, and loves them with all their faults. He is the best, and I really wish he were a real person as well. (Cathy/Kate, on the other hand: though she was an intriguing character, I'm glad to leave her and her psychopathic ways in the pages of this novel!) This novel is not without its flaws. It tries to do so much that it's a bit fragmented, and it sometimes veers toward heavy-handedness and melodrama. But overall it's such an amazing and profoundly moving work. No question: it gets all the stars! Timshel.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Henry Avila

    Adam Trask was a weak but kind boy , and later man, his father treated him quite badly, even his jealous, sadistic, half- brother, younger but stronger, hit him repeatedly , barely surviving one brutal, vicious fight. Born in the middle of the American Civil War, in a Connecticut farm, he and brother Charles, are turned into good little soldiers, at a very tender age. Cyrus their father lost a leg, in the war, boasting of being in every major battle (which is physically impossible). In fact, the Adam Trask was a weak but kind boy , and later man, his father treated him quite badly, even his jealous, sadistic, half- brother, younger but stronger, hit him repeatedly , barely surviving one brutal, vicious fight. Born in the middle of the American Civil War, in a Connecticut farm, he and brother Charles, are turned into good little soldiers, at a very tender age. Cyrus their father lost a leg, in the war, boasting of being in every major battle (which is physically impossible). In fact, the private was only in a blue uniform six months, getting his appendage shot off, during the first day, of his first battle. But Cyrus becomes such a good liar, that people begin to actually believe him , as he, does as well! Yet writing marvelous, but fictional war articles, in the major American newspapers. Consequently he receives a job with the Grand Army of the Republic, an influential veterans group of Union soldiers, in Washington. His first wife commits suicide, the second dies of illness, let's say Cyrus was not a very lovable person. Adam is forced, by his father, at sixteen, to join the army, to make him a man, and save his hide from Charles. Running down the few scattered renegade Indians, in the plain states, Adam hates his job, still does it bravely and well. When the father dies, both boys inherit a vast sum of money, was their father not only a liar, but also a thief ? Out of the military , good Adam marries a woman of ill repute, Cathy, a lady so evil, that Satan would be ashamed to be associated with her. Adam buys a farm in northern California's rugged Salinas Valley, Cathy gives birth to twin boys, non identical, Caleb (Cal), and Aaron (Aron), shoots Adam and abandons the newborns. Not mother of the year material, the wife's manners could also be improved. Cathy takes up residence in a home that you can guess what kind it is, but Adam lives and goes into a deep funk ... Lee, the much loved Chinese servant, takes over and raises the kids, better than the moody, distant, bitter father, could ever do ...Thoughts: This story , is an allegory of the Bible's , Adam and Eve , being thrown out of The Garden of Eden, but also about wicked Cain and his good brother, Abel. Steinbeck was born in the frontier town of Salinas, the Old West was still alive, the few settlers struggled to make a living in the harsh land. The world changed, forever, as the book says when the year 1900 arrived,"Ladies were not ladies anymore, and you couldn't trust a gentleman's word". Sam Hamilton a neighbor of Adam and soon friend, was different, like a Patriarch out of the Bible , with his nine children, wise and tough, but not practical, thus always poor ... Nevertheless, these people are needed as Steinbeck believes, to give guidance, to others, which is very lacking today. ..The author's most ambitious , and his favorite work. Love and lots of hate, much conflict and a little peace, all there. Sam Hamilton, was the writer's grandfather.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kristin

    I am on a golden roll of amazingly fantastic books!! East of Eden by John Steinbeck was our book club pick for this month. I almost didn't read it. You see, it's an old friend...and I ALMOST didn't re-read it... and that would have been tragic. East of Eden is an epic story about good and evil. It tells the story of two families: the Trasks and the Hamiltons. It spans 3 generations and retells the Biblical story of Cain and Abel set in the Salinas Valley of Northern California. Perspective...life I am on a golden roll of amazingly fantastic books!! East of Eden by John Steinbeck was our book club pick for this month. I almost didn't read it. You see, it's an old friend...and I ALMOST didn't re-read it... and that would have been tragic. East of Eden is an epic story about good and evil. It tells the story of two families: the Trasks and the Hamiltons. It spans 3 generations and retells the Biblical story of Cain and Abel set in the Salinas Valley of Northern California. Perspective...life experience...testimony. Do they change who we are? Do they change our world view? Most definitely. The first time I read East of Eden I had just turned 17 years old. It was summer vacation and I was looking for a good book to read. This book had such a powerful impact on me that I clearly remember where I was when I read it (laying on the couch in our living room) and the feelings it provoked. At this time I had only the smallest fleeting shadow of religion and virtually no knowledge of the Bible, and not much interest in philosophy. This was about 4 months before Stacey and I met the Nolan sisters and I returned to church. The discussion between Samuel, Lee, and Adam about the story of Cain and Abel was so profound to me that I began scribbling in the margins, underlining/highlighting things, and actually "pondered" on the nature of man. I grabbed my scriptures untouched since my baptism and turned to Genesis and began to read. God works in mysterious ways...and the spirit recognizes truth. Free will...of course...that made sense to me. "Thou mayest..." I had no understanding of Mormon Doctrine and Free Agency. But something rang absolutely "true" to me...that we have a choice and it is that choice that defines who we are. Powerful stuff for a religionless, scriptureless, self-involved 17 year old. Fast forward 18 years and what a difference those 18 years have made. What a gift it was to read this book again farther down the road of life. At 17 years old I identified with the rejected child and at 35 years old I felt more the emotions of a parent who doesn't ever want her children not to feel loved and accepted. When I came to the chapter on the discussion of Cain and Abel I wasn't blown away by the "truth" of "thou mayest..." I felt more like..."Yep! That's how it works". But I was struck again by how powerfully important free will is. Isn't that why we fight for freedom and for the freedom of those around us? Without freedom there is no free agency and without free agency there is no plan of salvation. It IS the oldest story...it is what we fought for in the premortal world...and it what we continue fighting for today. Freedom...choice...free agency...the ability to do "otherwise". At 35 years old I am much more knowledgeable of the scriptures and what is the major theme of the Old Testament in particular? Choice and consequences. Simple huh? Not only that but as is pointed out in the Introduction of East of Eden written by David Wyatt that the Bible "Has only one set of first parents but many Cains and Abels: Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob, the Prodigal Son and his brother, Satan and Christ--in each one of these twosomes one is somehow lucky, or better, or preferred." (pg. xxii) Steinbeck says: "The greatest terror a child can have is that he is not loved, and rejection is the hell he fears. I think everyone in the world to a large or small extent has felt rejection. And with rejection comes anger, and with anger some kind of crime in revenge for the rejection, and with the crime guilt--and there is the story of mankind." Some are put off by Steinbeck and his details and descriptions. I have criticized him myself while reading Grapes of Wrath. I felt like...come on...enough of the scenery let's get back to the story but in East of Eden I loved his details and descriptions. Steinbeck was also criticized by reviewers by leaving the story every so often for his monologues. I must say that at 17 years old I too found it annoying but at 35 years old I loved it. You see I have since developed a deep love of philosophy, politics, and history. I am continually reminded that history repeats itself. Each generation is always surprised that we feel and can relate to the same things as generations past. Many of Steinbeck's monologues that were relevant to the story which takes place in the late 1800's and early 1900's were also applicable to the time Steinbeck wrote the novel, the 1950's, and are still relevant today in 2008. I particularly loved this quote: "I don't know how it will be in the years to come. There are monstrous changes taking place in the world, forces shaping a future whose face we do not know. Some of these forces seem evil to us, perhaps not in themselves but in their tendency to eliminate other things we hold good...when our food and clothing and housing all are born in the complication of mass production, mass method is bound to get into our thinking and to eliminate all other thinking...has entered our economics, our politics, and even our religion, so that some nations have substituted the idea collective for the idea of God. This in my time is the danger. There is great tension in the world, tension toward a breaking point, and men are unhappy and confused. At such times it seems natural and good to me to ask myself these questions. What do I believe in? What must I fight for and what must I fight against." (pg. 131-132) Steinbeck wrote that he worried about his monologues and commentaries that "...had he not too often stopped the book and gone into discussions of God knows what. His only answer was 'Yes, I have. I don't know why. Just wanted too. Perhaps I was wrong.' " I don't think he was. If it isn't blatantly obvious I LOVE this book!! One of my all-time favorites. Steinbeck is a genius and this book is his crowning glory. I love books that you come away from still have you thinking...for days...weeks. Was Adam Trask like what the original Adam would have been like if he had never fallen and only Eve did? WHY was Cathy the way she was? Are monsters born or created? What happens to Cal and Abra? What happens to Cal's children? Does the cycle continue? Is the cycle broken? Why is there only one lovable woman in the story? READ THIS BOOK!! If you've already read it...read it again. I rate it: EXCELLENT!!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lucy

    I finished this last night and afterwards, I lay back on my pillow extremely satisfied just thinking about it. It's so rare that I read something that delights me from beginning to end. While there were a few turns on the journey that confused me and seemed to take the book in a different direction, his connecting all the characters, the stories and do it with profound meaning is nothing short of brilliant. And to do it through his own person history, and one of the oldest stories of the Bible o I finished this last night and afterwards, I lay back on my pillow extremely satisfied just thinking about it. It's so rare that I read something that delights me from beginning to end. While there were a few turns on the journey that confused me and seemed to take the book in a different direction, his connecting all the characters, the stories and do it with profound meaning is nothing short of brilliant. And to do it through his own person history, and one of the oldest stories of the Bible only adds to his brilliance. I'm always surprised when I love a classic. Perhaps because there are a lot that I haven't liked, or merely tolerated, but this was a joy to read. The characters are so multi-dimensional and interesting that their stories and development become almost personal. Adam, Samuel, Lee, Abra, Cal, Aron, Kate/Cathy and even Liza were real for me. Their homes were real. Their towns were real. Best of all, the consequences to their actions were real. How do you summaraize East of Eden? It's a story about good and evil. But most of all, it's a story about choice. For me, the central part of the book was the realization made by Lee, Adam and Samuel when they were dissecting the story of Cain and Able and their offerings. In one translation, the Lord rebukes Cain's offering by saying, "If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him." It was while reading a different translation that Lee, a Chinese servant, noticed a difference. In it, rather than saying "thou shalt rule over him" it said "do thou rule over him" They noticed that it wasn't a promise, it was an order. Such a difference got Lee wondering what original word different translations came from. After years of studying with Chinese philosophers and a rabbi, the consensus was that the original Hebrew word, Timshel, actually means "Thou mayest". Therefore, the bible does not order that man triumph over sin or promises that it will. It says that the way is open. For if thou mayest...that mayest not. Brilliant! Because that's what I think! Agency is so important to Heavenly Father that he allowed 1/3 of His children to leave him permanently. Of course we have a choice over sin. Steinbeck leaves the story briefly in Chapter 34 when he writes a short essay about the one story that exists. He says, Humans are caught - in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too - in a net of good and evil....A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well -- or ill? In uncertainty I am certain that underneath their topmost layers of frailty men want to be good and want to be loved. Indeed, most of their vices are attempted short cuts to love. When a man comes to die, no matter what his talents and influences and genius, if he dies unloved his life must be a failure to him and his dying a cold horror. It seems to me that 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. We have only one story. All novels, all poetry, are built on the never-ending contest in ourselves of good and evil. And it occurs to me that evil must constantly respawn, while good, while virtue, is immortal. Vice has always a new fresh young face, while virtue is venerable as nothing else in the world is. This is what his book is about it. Man's struggle over good and evil. In a completely human story, Steinbeck captured THE story with his characters and storylines. This is a book I happily recommend to anyone and will buy for my all-time greatest books library.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~

    Actual Rating: 4.5 Stars Alright friends, here's the dealio. When I read this book, lots of things in my personal life were a hectic. When I finished this book, things were still hectic. I'm writing this now, and things are still a little hectic, but slowly they are leveling out (so no worries.) The thing is, because of all that hectic, I did not document my thoughts about this book the way I normally would do. I also made the fatal mistake of waiting far too long to sit down & write my review Actual Rating: 4.5 Stars Alright friends, here's the dealio. When I read this book, lots of things in my personal life were a hectic. When I finished this book, things were still hectic. I'm writing this now, and things are still a little hectic, but slowly they are leveling out (so no worries.) The thing is, because of all that hectic, I did not document my thoughts about this book the way I normally would do. I also made the fatal mistake of waiting far too long to sit down & write my review upon finishing. Usually, if I wait too long the reviewer in me just quietly slips an I.O.U. note into the brain inbox & then goes back into hibernation until the next book is completed. She's a finicky sort. My point is, this review will very likely will not do the book justice. If you're looking for a review that does do the book justice, I'd consider going to read my darling Celeste's review because she's basically the wordsmith we all aspire to be. But if you'd still like to read my late to the game drivel, you're absolutely welcome here! So, anyway, about the book. It's super freakin' great. I literally love generational tales. The way we get to experience & live through the evolution of the Trasks & the Hamiltons is a thing of pure beauty even when the going gets rough. Every time I put the book down, I was excited for the next chance I'd get to pick it up. It was just that engaging. One of the more standout elements of this novel is it's inclusion of two very unique minority characters - a Chinese man named Lee, and a woman named Cathy. These two are almost a complete antithesis to one another & they are both so incredibly central to every major plot point in the story, even as it spans across many years. While both definitely became favorites of mine in their own respect, Cathy is an especially wonderful character & probably one of the most terrifying/intriguing I've ever come across in any novel. It was terribly fun to watch these characters swirl & rage around our main cast in their storms of light & darkness. Another aspect of this book that I really enjoyed is its observance of nature vs. nurture & how the sins of the parent can be passed down to create a stain on the soul of the child. It's simultaneously a lovely reminder that we have a choice in how we react to the brokenness we may inherit. Finally, all the Biblical parallels here were just so much fun to point out especially since I read this book with a wonderful group. The strongest recurring theme has to be the dynamic between Adam's sons, Cain & Abel. It seems as though this novel seeks to explore the "what ifs" of every possible combination there. As far as classics are concerned, I spent a lot of time reading them in high school & I accidentally conditioned myself into thinking that all classics are super deep & super complex & require a formal essay (12 page minimum, single spaced) upon completion. I subsequently avoided them for a couple years because I had a hard time viewing them as approachable from a casual reader's perspective. Now that I've dipped my toes back into the genre, I'm realizing that classics can fall anywhere on the approachability spectrum. However, for readers who may be stuck in the same mindset I'm breaking out of let me just tell you this novel is super approachable! I found the writing style easy to absorb & very sincere without losing any of its beauty. I knocked half a star off because there are a couple places where I feel certain character chapters didn't add much to the overall story, and some lengthy descriptions of the Salinas Valley could've been shortened without sacrificing much in the way of atmosphere. This is definitely a must-read for anyone in love with reading & one I will revisit in the future! Read this with TS, Haifa, and Celeste in our mission to conquer some classics! ☺️

  15. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    Wow! I just don't know how to express the overwhelming power of this inspirational story! It is one of those novels that really isn't over when you finish reading it as it stays with you inside your head and heart forever. There is so much to ponder: Just a simple question like, "What am I here for?" or to feel the story of Cain and Abel come to life; and gosh, I don't think I will ever forget the meaning of the Hebrew word Timshel (thou mayest) a very important symbol in this book meaning we ha Wow! I just don't know how to express the overwhelming power of this inspirational story! It is one of those novels that really isn't over when you finish reading it as it stays with you inside your head and heart forever. There is so much to ponder: Just a simple question like, "What am I here for?" or to feel the story of Cain and Abel come to life; and gosh, I don't think I will ever forget the meaning of the Hebrew word Timshel (thou mayest) a very important symbol in this book meaning we have a choice to choose between good and evil.Each and every one of the character's in this novel are engaging and memorable, but for me Samuel Hamilton and LEE outshine them all; and while reading this UNPUTDOWNABLE classic, I was trying to remember a book I've EVER read that had such an evil villainous bitch as Cathy (Kate) who executes absolutely despicable and unforgivable acts of harm to just about everyone in her acquaintance. (believe me when I say, Serena was an angel compared to this nasty piece of work), and yet....by the end of the story, I actually felt myself feeling a teeny bit sorry for her. (go figure)Anyway, EAST OF EDEN will forever be a favorite book of mine and one I already look forward to reading again. Very Highly Recommend!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Helene Jeppesen

    I read this first when I was at university and I loved it. I read this again now as a 30-year-old avid reader who has become much more critical when it comes to books. I’m happy to say that while this was a bumpy revisit, “East of Eden” remains one of my favourite books! This novel is about inheritage and how hard it sometimes is to develop away from your inheritage. What makes you good? What makes you bad? And do some of us contain more of one or the other? Those are some of the questions that C I read this first when I was at university and I loved it. I read this again now as a 30-year-old avid reader who has become much more critical when it comes to books. I’m happy to say that while this was a bumpy revisit, “East of Eden” remains one of my favourite books! This novel is about inheritage and how hard it sometimes is to develop away from your inheritage. What makes you good? What makes you bad? And do some of us contain more of one or the other? Those are some of the questions that Cal asks himself in the second half of the book, because it takes the first half to lead us up to his, and his brother Aron’s, story. John Steinbeck remains one of my favourite authors because his books are raw and honest. I remember reading “The Grapes of Wrath” last summer and it left a deep impact on me that makes me think of the book now and then even today. “East of Eden” is different and I had forgotten most of it when I started my reread, but once I got started everything came back to me, and towards the end it became clear to me why I love this story so much. Cathy, who is mean, selfish, and pure evil, is one of my favourite fictional characters of all time - believe it or not! She’s perfectly described as this devilish woman with small, sharp teeth and she makes for a perfect contrast to Adam. Lee is another absolute favourite character of mine who surprises you and takes you by storm, and he’s one of the characters I’m going to miss the most after having finished this novel. I know that I must get my hands on more books from Steinbeck because he’s simply brilliant! The only question is where to go next and what book of his to pick up? Let me know if you have any recommendations because I would truly love to know :)

  17. 4 out of 5

    Samra Yusuf

    Those who are hurt most have the tremendous ability to heal, but what if a bruised heart defies to heal and turns indifferent by the time, what if a hand castoff once never advances again, what if a child lulled fallaciously to sleep never believes in fairies again, what if Cain abandoned God who rejected his sacrifice and preferred Abel over him. God was rejected in exchange and rightly so! East of Eden might be taken leisurely as the re-telling of biblical tale of original sin, or a family biog Those who are hurt most have the tremendous ability to heal, but what if a bruised heart defies to heal and turns indifferent by the time, what if a hand castoff once never advances again, what if a child lulled fallaciously to sleep never believes in fairies again, what if Cain abandoned God who rejected his sacrifice and preferred Abel over him. God was rejected in exchange and rightly so! East of Eden might be taken leisurely as the re-telling of biblical tale of original sin, or a family biography , the tone of author in throughout this elephantine volume (took me eternity to wind up) is of a lover who longs for his lost love, Steinbeck’s California is more like a character than the mere setting, it breaths and reeks and bleeds like other characters of the tale, they are prone to trust and betrayed, to love and befooled, fallible figures with all the flaws a perfect human can come with, the wars they wage within themselves on the daily basis does little to crack the outer shell, some are exhausted by the instinctive meanness in them, to be good is an effort sedulous: Released in September of 1952, the reading public certainly confirmed the merits of Steinbeck’s masterpiece. East of Eden is arguably his most problematic work, an attempt to weave together the history of Steinbeck's family and an invented story that is a modern parallel to that of Cain and Abel, the structural flaws of the story, the intrusive narrative, forced text, lack of unity between the tales of two families the Hamiltons and Trasks, and sheer evil in the form of only female character is what makes us doubt its high merits, but yet it echoes through ages and to this day is not out of print. We might acclaim this magnum opus of Steinbeck, for its breadth and scope, we eventually come to condemn the seemingly incoherent structure of the tale, the people who populate the story are writhed and broken, rejected and dismayed, abandoned and repudiated, and every one of them is chained in his own hell, pondering over the only one colossal confusion that ever struck human mind, what the potent victor in His rage can else inflict, do I repent, or change, and they are given answer in “thou mayest” Amid the cacophony of its uneven tone and structure, the tale has never ceased to fascinate our relentless hearts, who identify these characters, know them, and have been them at some point of time, Steinbeck’s characterization of the main antagonist in the text, Cathy Ames Trask. Simultaneously a prostitute and a mother, a masochist and a coward, a manipulator and a loner, Cathy is the catalyst for the plot of the novel. Her actions wreak havoc on the lives of everyone, she is a monster in true sense of the word, and she delights in causing destruction. Cathy’s behavior is indeed diabolical, and she is introduced to us as a congenital monster who has always been evil. But then, there is this hope a thing with feathers, even inborn monsterity can be placated with words of love, Love the godforsaken epidemic that makes us uniquely vulnerable, the power we give someone to completely mess up with our heart and hurt it in the places, where no other can reach: this fragility and defenselessness makes it a fortress unconquerable, love never aims to achieve anything, nor even love in return, paradise might not exist, might there not be God, as long as we breathe love, the world is a place worth living even for monsters, because all is not lost!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Trish

    "And now that you don't have to be perfect you can be good." This book is one of the masterpieces of literature. A story that will stand the test of time, with vivid, unforgettable characters that will haunt you long after you've closed the book. East of Eden is the story of life. It's a story about brotherhood, jealousy, anger, pain, love, evil, sacrifice, redemption. It's one of those books you want to thrust into the hands of your friends, family, neighbors, peers and shout, "Read this, it's g "And now that you don't have to be perfect you can be good." This book is one of the masterpieces of literature. A story that will stand the test of time, with vivid, unforgettable characters that will haunt you long after you've closed the book. East of Eden is the story of life. It's a story about brotherhood, jealousy, anger, pain, love, evil, sacrifice, redemption. It's one of those books you want to thrust into the hands of your friends, family, neighbors, peers and shout, "Read this, it's going to change your life!"

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    East of Eden, John Steinbeck (1902 - 1968) East of Eden is a novel by Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck, published in September 1952. Often described as Steinbeck's most ambitious novel, East of Eden brings to life the intricate details of two families, the Trasks and the Hamiltons, and their interwoven stories. The novel was originally addressed to Steinbeck's young sons, Thom and John (then 6 and 4 years old, respectively). Steinbeck wanted to describe the Salinas Valley for them in detail: the East of Eden, John Steinbeck (1902 - 1968) East of Eden is a novel by Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck, published in September 1952. Often described as Steinbeck's most ambitious novel, East of Eden brings to life the intricate details of two families, the Trasks and the Hamiltons, and their interwoven stories. The novel was originally addressed to Steinbeck's young sons, Thom and John (then 6½ and 4½ years old, respectively). Steinbeck wanted to describe the Salinas Valley for them in detail: the sights, sounds, smells, and colors. Characters: Mr. Edwards, Ethel, Lee, Faye, Tom Hamilton, Cyrus Trask, Mrs. Trask, Alice Trask, Adam Trask, Charles Trask, Aron Trask, Caleb Trask, Samuel Hamilton, Liza Hamilton, George Hamilton, Will Hamilton, Joe Hamilton, Lizzie Hamilton, Una Hamilton, Dessie Hamilton, Olive Hamilton, Mollie Hamilton, Cathy Ames, Abra Bacon, Joe Valery تاریخ نخستین خوانش: ماه آگوست سال 1984 میلادی عنوان: شرق بهشت؛ نویسنده: جان ارنست اشتاین بک؛ مترجم: بهرام مقدادی؛ مشخصات نشر: تهران، بامداد، 1361 1362، در 3 جلد، موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان آمریکایی سده 20 م اگر «جان اشتاین بک» در سراسر عمر ادبی خویش، جز همین «شرق بهشت»، کتاب دیگر ننوشته بود، باز هم شایسته و سزاوار همه ی شهرت و افتخاری بود که نصیبش شده است. حماسه ی فلسفی و انسانی عظیمی که داستان بشریت را در خود گنجانده است، از بدو خلقت تا به امروز: ماجراهایی که پس از خوردن میوه ی درخت خرد، بر سر فرزندان آدم آمده، و تا ابدیت ادامه خواهد یافت. «شرق بهشت» به رغم گذشت سالها از نگارش و نخستین انتشار آن، هنوز هم، جزو «پرخواننده ترین ده کتاب» در آمریکا ست. ا. شربیانی

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    “Timshel” It’s the Hebrew word meaning “thou mayest” and is the lynch pin concept that this glorious novel swirls around – basically, we as humans have the power to choose our paths in life, whether it’s to be good or evil or somewhere in between. This isn’t the perfect book, but it’s sort of like a beautiful woman, who has a chip in her front tooth, the imperfection is there to heighten the beauty around it, not detract from it. Steinbeck has arguably never been better; the description (read: i “Timshel” It’s the Hebrew word meaning “thou mayest” and is the lynch pin concept that this glorious novel swirls around – basically, we as humans have the power to choose our paths in life, whether it’s to be good or evil or somewhere in between. This isn’t the perfect book, but it’s sort of like a beautiful woman, who has a chip in her front tooth, the imperfection is there to heighten the beauty around it, not detract from it. Steinbeck has arguably never been better; the description (read: info dump) of the Salinas Valley that starts this book is readable and how often can anyone say that. Mixing biblical metaphors with the happenings of two disparate families – one reasonably content and productive, the other never quite getting themselves together and as a consequence forever struggling with their inner demons and inherent inadequacies. The book is not without humor, but it’s the drama and pathos that will leave you wrecked. The tear-jerker of an ending is one of the best I’ve ever read. The film with James Dean, although good, doesn’t really do this sprawling book justice, plus Julie Harris was horribly miscast as Abra. This is the best book about an evil psychopathic hooker by a Nobel Prize winner ever written! So kudos Mr. Steinbeck for writing the best book I’ve read in quite a while. This was a buddy ready with my thunder buddy (reader) for life: Stepheny. Literature comes alive and who wouldn’t give over a Nobel Prize for this.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Elyse

    So FANTASTIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Madeline

    "I think this is the best-known story in the world because it is everybody's story. I think it is the symbol story of the human soul. ...The greatest terror a child can have is that he is not loved, and rejection is the hell he fears. I think everyone in the world to a large or small extent has felt rejection. And with rejection comes anger, and with anger some kind of crime in revenge for the rejection, and with the crime guilt - and that is the story of mankind." Before this, my only exposure t "I think this is the best-known story in the world because it is everybody's story. I think it is the symbol story of the human soul. ...The greatest terror a child can have is that he is not loved, and rejection is the hell he fears. I think everyone in the world to a large or small extent has felt rejection. And with rejection comes anger, and with anger some kind of crime in revenge for the rejection, and with the crime guilt - and that is the story of mankind." Before this, my only exposure to John Steinbeck were his two short novels Of Mice and Men and The Pearl, neither of which impressed me in any significant way. In fact, when people suggested I read this book and tried to explain why it was so amazing, I didn't really think that, based on his work that I'd read so far, Steinbeck was capable of writing an epic like this. And holy hell, was I wrong. To say that this book is a retelling of the Biblical Cain and Abel story seems too simplistic. That's what's going on at the core of the story, but there's so much more here that Steinbeck wants us to see besides "the story of Cain and Abel isn't as simple as it seems." The book starts out with Adam and Charles Trask - one brother is good, one brother is bad. The father loves the good brother and rejects the bad brother. Then the good brother grows up, starts a family, and has two sons - one good, one bad. But this time it's not that simple, and the paths that the two brothers take, and how they overcome and subvert their roles of "good brother" and "bad brother" is fascinating. That's the cliff notes. As I said, there's a lot of other stuff going on - like some of the best characters ever created, generally. First there's Lee, the Trask family's Chinese servant who's so goddamn cool and well-done that I don't even want to describe him further than that because it might ruin things. And then there's Adam Trask's wife Cathy, affectionately known as the Psycho Bitch by me and, to a lesser and more eloquent extent, Steinbeck: "I believe there are monsters born in the world to human parents. ...It is my belief that Cathy Ames was born without the tendencies, or lack of them, which drove and forced her all of her life. She was misweighted, some gear out of ratio. She was not like other people, never was from birth. And just as a cripple may learn to utilize his lack so that he becomes more effective in a limited field than the uncrippled, so did Cathy, using her difference, make a painful and bewildering stir in the world." Translation: bitch is crazy, and she will fuck your shit up. And oh, she does. All these characters, flawed and wise and foolish and stubborn and angry and sad, interact and intersect with each other, moving in and out of their lives throughout the course of the story. More stuff than just Cain and Abel retelling happens, as I said, but some of the best parts of the book come when Steinbeck has his characters openly discuss the similarities between their lives and the Biblical story. There's the part I quoted at the beginning of this review, and then later the same characters talk about the story again, and focus on a specific phrase: when God tells Cain, "If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at thy door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him." That's what it says in the King James version of the Bible. In the American Standard version, the verb is "Do thou rule over him." Lee, because he is awesome, decides to find out what the original Hebrew version says, and this is what he finds (pay attention, because this is kind of the entire point of the book): "And this was the gold from our mining: 'Thou mayest.' 'Thou mayest rule over sin.' ...The American Standard translation orders men to triumph over sin, and you call sin ignorance. The King James translation makes a promise in 'Thou shalt,' meaning that men will surely triumph over sin. But the Hebrew word, the word timshel-'Thou mayest' - that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the whole world. That says the way is open. ...Why, that makes a man great, that gives him stature with the gods, for in his weakness and his filth and the murder of his brother he has still the great choice. He can choose his course and fight through it and win." That's what the story comes down to: are we born good or evil, or do we choose to be that way? Is anything predestined, or are we capable of changing ourselves and our lives? It's gruesome, it's tragic, it's beautiful, and it's more than The Pearl would have made me think Steinbeck was capable of. "I want to think...Damn you, I want to think. I'll want to take this off alone where I can pick it apart and see. Maybe you've tumbled a world for me. And I don't know what I can build in my world's place." PS: why the FUCK is this not on The List? Fucking Of Mice and Men made the cut, but noooo, not East of Eden. Seriously, what the hell.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Dan Porter

    My first encounter with Steinbeck was The Grapes of Wrath. I didn't enjoy the encounter. Had my first encounter been East of Eden, I most likely would have already read everything else he's written. This is the the age-old story of the struggle between good and evil, but with an interesting twist. Steinbeck sees the coexistence of good and evil as necessary for the emergence of character or greatness. He lays the responsibility for that emergence squarely on the shoulders of the individual and sh My first encounter with Steinbeck was The Grapes of Wrath. I didn't enjoy the encounter. Had my first encounter been East of Eden, I most likely would have already read everything else he's written. This is the the age-old story of the struggle between good and evil, but with an interesting twist. Steinbeck sees the coexistence of good and evil as necessary for the emergence of character or greatness. He lays the responsibility for that emergence squarely on the shoulders of the individual and shows that the exercise of free will (timshel) is the key to that emergence. Some people (Adam, Aron, and Cathy/Kate in the story) possess within themselves only good or only evil. Achieving true character or greatness is an impossibility for them, because choice is not possible and is, in fact, meaningless. Rather than character or greatness, their lives lead inevitably to self-destruction. For others (Sam, Lee, and Cal) good and evil constantly struggle for domination. Even when the good naturally dominates, one must exercise free will to exhibit character or achieve greatness. Sam and Lee are both considered good men, but each must choose actions that hurt Adam and Cal respectively, to bring them to necessary realizations. Sam and Lee consider themselves cowards for having not chosen to act sooner or for not acting in instances where action was called for. In Cal, the evil tends to dominate and he tries to shift the blame for his actions to heredity. He uses the evil as a balm for his guilt...he feels better about himself by feeling sorry for himself. Through Lee's refusal to let Cal do either, Cal begins to take responsibility for his actions and choices. Steinbeck develops the character (in more than one sense) of Lee throughout the book and uses him as the primary vehicle through which he expounds the concepts expressed above. Of all that can be said about Lee, two things stand out. First is the influence that Sam Hamilton had on him. In a passage near the end of the book, much of what Lee says to Cal is what he learned from Sam early in the book and sounds like Sam speaking to Cal through Lee. Second is that Lee understands the difference between heritage and culture. His life demonstrates that both are important and that they overlap but he never confuses or equates the two. East of Eden should be required reading in every high school American Lit class.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    Before he started writing this novel, Steinbeck conceived of it as a gift for his sons. He wrote: They are little boys now and they will never know what they came from through me, unless I tell them. It is not written for them to read now but when they are grown and the pains and joys have tousled them a little. And if the book is addressed to them, it is for good reason. I want them to know how it was, I want to tell them directly, and perhaps by speaking to them directly I shall speak directly Before he started writing this novel, Steinbeck conceived of it as a gift for his sons. He wrote: They are little boys now and they will never know what they came from through me, unless I tell them. It is not written for them to read now but when they are grown and the pains and joys have tousled them a little. And if the book is addressed to them, it is for good reason. I want them to know how it was, I want to tell them directly, and perhaps by speaking to them directly I shall speak directly to other people. Steinbeck wrote that he planned to tell his sons “one of the greatest, perhaps the greatest story of all – the story of good and evil, of strength and weakness, of love and hate, of beauty and weakness” and that he wanted to demonstrate “how these doubles are inseparable – how neither can exist without the other and how out of their groupings creativeness is born”. The extent to which Steinbeck succeeded or failed in this endeavour is one of the fascinating aspects of this novel. Inserting himself into the narrative as both the narrator and as a minor character, Steinbeck wrote about the Salinas Valley and about his mother’s family, the Hamiltons, with tenderness and love. The other part of the narrative, the account of three generations of the (fictional) Trask family and the re-telling of the Biblical story of Cain and Abel, overshadows the history of the Hamiltons and pulls the novel in lots of different directions. However, the resulting work, while flawed, is powerful and compelling. There’s so much I love about the novel. I find Steinbeck’s use of language breathtaking. While very accessible, it demonstrates a powerful ability to observe and describe what is being observed in a manner which conveys both images and emotions. In this novel, Steinbeck did not strive for a natural style of dialogue. His characters do not always speak in the way real people speak, but the way they speak is part of the power of the work. I love the characters as much as I love the language. Lee’s insight, Sam Hamilton’s wisdom, Cal’s desperate longing for approval and even Cathy’s psychopathy will haunt me for a long time. I also love the setting, with its carefully detailed evocation of Salinas in the early years of the 20th century. Most of all, though, I love the passion that Steinbeck put into this novel, the work that meant most to him personally. I’m glad that I listened to the audiobook (very capably narrated by Richard Poe) immediately after reading Jay Parini’s excellent biography of Steinbeck. It’s given me a greater understanding of not just the extent to which East of Eden is Steinbeck’s family history, but also how much of it relates to his complicated personal circumstances at the time he was writing the novel. As noted above, the novel has flaws. The structure is unwieldy and the narrative is often melodramatic. However, Steinbeck’s passion and warmth, his beautiful prose and the way in which he builds his central themes make this a complete winner for me. It’s one of those novels which I know I will want to read again. Probably very soon.

  25. 5 out of 5

    umang

    This is a long, long sermon masquerading as a novel. Its aim seems clear- to be the great American novel. In spite of, or maybe because of this overreach, it is completely unsatisfying. The characters are mere symbols. Most of the themes pertain to the characters’ moral dilemmas, but it is difficult to be drawn into these since the characters lack any real complexity. The men are various superlatives (greatest, kindest, wisest). There are two women characters, one evil and exaggerated to the poi This is a long, long sermon masquerading as a novel. Its aim seems clear- to be the great American novel. In spite of, or maybe because of this overreach, it is completely unsatisfying. The characters are mere symbols. Most of the themes pertain to the characters’ moral dilemmas, but it is difficult to be drawn into these since the characters lack any real complexity. The men are various superlatives (greatest, kindest, wisest). There are two women characters, one evil and exaggerated to the point of absurdity, and the other just a plot device. And the ‘chinaman’ has to be one of the most ridiculous characters in all of literature. The weak characters are further undermined by the stilted and unnatural dialogue, which in no way resembles conversation as I have experienced it. The characters take turns giving soulful, melodramatic speeches on the human condition. The ‘chinaman’ is especially painful in this regard.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ana

    One word- EPIC

  27. 4 out of 5

    Celeste

    On a side note, this is the 100th book I’ve reviewed this year, and I’m incredibly thankful that such a title fell onto a novel that mattered so much to me. This was my first fully engaged experience with Steinbeck, and I was completely blown away. His prose was lovely in the way a desert is lovely; sparse but absolutely breathtaking in a certain slant of light. I read The Grapes of Wrath in college, but did so while reading 4 or 5 other classic chunky novels at the same time for various classes, On a side note, this is the 100th book I’ve reviewed this year, and I’m incredibly thankful that such a title fell onto a novel that mattered so much to me. This was my first fully engaged experience with Steinbeck, and I was completely blown away. His prose was lovely in the way a desert is lovely; sparse but absolutely breathtaking in a certain slant of light. I read The Grapes of Wrath in college, but did so while reading 4 or 5 other classic chunky novels at the same time for various classes, meaning that none of them really stuck with me. But man, this book will stick. The ending gave me literal goosebumps, which is incredibly rare. If there is such a thing as The Great American Novel, I strongly believe that this should be it. I’ve never read a novel that felt more quintessentially American. The landscape described, the eras experienced, and the mentalities revealed all felt like an ode to everything that makes us American, which was one of the reasons it resonated with me so strongly. It just exactly captured our identity as a nation, both what we regret being and what we yearn to become. Not that this book won't ring true for NonAmerican readers. Not at all! Instead, I believe it would shed some light on our history, on who we are, and who we wish to be. “I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one. . . . Humans are caught—in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too—in a net of good and evil. . . . There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well—or ill?” East of Eden spans various families and generations, but centers around the intersection of the Hamilton family and the Trask family. Unbeknownst to them, the Trask family is caught in a cycle of living and reliving a curse as old as time: the battle of wills between Cain and Abel. This curse makes itself felt in multiple generations, and in multiple ways. It’s the saddest thing in the world to watch, but was an incredibly powerful trope to develop into the central focus of the plot. If you’re well acquainted with the Cain/Abel narrative from the Book of Genesis in the Bible, there are so many little Easter eggs in the story to track down and keep your eyes open for, which added another layer of fascination for me. There are so many clues to look for, but discovering them for yourself is half the fun. “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 idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual. This is what I am and what I am about.” This was one of the most deeply philosophical books I’ve ever read, which made me love it far more than I expected. The love I have for Samuel Hamilton and Lee knows no bounds. Their conversations on philosophy and Scripture and life in general were my very favorite parts of the novel. The linchpin of the entire story is the conversation they had about the Hebrew word Timshel, translated by some as “Thou shalt” and others as “Thou wilt.” But Lee contended that a third translation held more truth: “Thou mayest.” Free will is imperative to humankind; without it, we would be mere automatons in the hands of God. But instead, He imbued us with the capability of determining our own fate. That’s where Timshel comes into play. The words “Thou mayest” are incredibly powerful, as they put our choices back in our own hands. And that is the central struggle in the novel; becoming who you want to be in spite of the genetics or past stacked against you. “An unbelieved truth can hurt a man much more than a lie. It takes great courage to back truth unacceptable to our times. There's a punishment for it, and it's usually crucifixion.” I don’t know that I’ve ever been this impacted by a classic outside of C.S. Lewis’s novel, Till We Have Faces. It moved me and made me think and I think it will stay with me. This is a book deserves to be reread. It deserves to be highlighted and annotated and tattered. It deserves to be discussed and debated. Most of all, it deserves to be read. “And now that you don't have to be perfect, you can be good.” This was a buddy read with these lovelies: Mary, Haïfa, and TS.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Parthiban Sekar

    There is only one story which, from time immemorial, has been relentlessly reappearing in different forms, faces, and times and that is the never-ending battle between the Good and the Bad, the Gods and the Monsters, the Christ and the Satan, the Angels and the Demons, the crop-farmer and the shepherd, Folly and Wisdom, We and our alter-ego . Not always the Good wins. Not always the Bad loses. A victory gets replaced by a sliding defeat of same height and a defeat by a rising victory of same he There is only one story which, from time immemorial, has been relentlessly reappearing in different forms, faces, and times and that is the never-ending battle between the Good and the Bad, the Gods and the Monsters, the Christ and the Satan, the Angels and the Demons, the crop-farmer and the shepherd, Folly and Wisdom, We and our alter-ego . Not always the Good wins. Not always the Bad loses. A victory gets replaced by a sliding defeat of same height and a defeat by a rising victory of same height. And, that is how it is. This is undoubtedly one of the greatest works of all-time. This reenactment of The Fall of Adam and Eve and The murderous rivalry of Cain and Abel is not only inexorably beautiful but also profoundly meaningful. "The greatest terror a child can have is that he is not loved, and rejection is the hell he fears. I think everyone in the world to a large or small extent has felt rejection. And with rejection comes anger, and with anger some kind of crime in revenge for the rejection and with the crime guilt—and there is the story of mankind." Competitions are not always healthy or even humane especially when they are between siblings and most importantly where there is a room for disposition. "Even God can have a preference, can he? Let's suppose God liked lamb better than vegetables. I think I do myself. Cain brought him a bunch of carrots maybe. And God said, 'I don't like this. Try again. Bring me something I like and I'll set you up alongside your brother.' But Cain got mad. His feelings were hurt. And when a man's feelings are hurt he wants to strike at something, and Abel was in the way of his anger." This book is a tremendously balanced mixture of Irish humor in form of Hamilton couple, Chinese philosophy in form of all-known Lee, and unfathomable morality (Ok! Subjective opinion) in form of Trask's family. Quoting one of my favorites from LEE (Who is my most favorite and memorable character!) “We’re a violent people, Cal. Does it seem strange to you that I include myself? Maybe it’s true that we are all descended from the restless, the nervous, the criminals, the arguers and brawlers, but also the brave and independent and generous. If our ancestors had not been that, they would have stayed in their home plots in the other world and starved over the squeezed-out soil. That’s why I include myself. We all have that heritage, no matter what old land our fathers left. All colors and blends of Americans have somewhat the same tendencies. It’s a breed–selected out by accident. And so we’re over-brave and over-fearful – we’re kind and cruel as children. We’re over-friendly and at the same time frightened by strangers. We boast and are impressed. We’re over-sentimental and realistic. We are mundane and materialistic–and do you know of any other nation that acts for ideals? We eat too much. We have no taste, no sense of proportion. We throw our energy about like waste. In the old lands, they say of us that we go from barbarism to decadence without an intervening culture. Can it be that our critics have not the key or the language of our culture? That’s what we are, Cal–all of us. You aren't very different.” “And now that you don't have to be perfect, you can be good.” P.S. Thank you for reading my favorite quotes from this epic book :)

  29. 5 out of 5

    Brian Yahn

    Parts of this book are god-like. At different stages in the beginning, middle, and end, I burnt through pages like this was some sort of mystery-thriller, but obviously with all the depth of Steinbeck... Then there's the characters, which here are some of the best. Cal's struggle--to be good when he's so compelled to be bad--is one of the more interesting ones I've come across. Kate is a perfectly written evil bitch and every time she pops onto the page, you can't wait to see what she'll do next. Parts of this book are god-like. At different stages in the beginning, middle, and end, I burnt through pages like this was some sort of mystery-thriller, but obviously with all the depth of Steinbeck... Then there's the characters, which here are some of the best. Cal's struggle--to be good when he's so compelled to be bad--is one of the more interesting ones I've come across. Kate is a perfectly written evil bitch and every time she pops onto the page, you can't wait to see what she'll do next. My only problem is that, overall, Part I--which is about 25% of the book--is REALLY slow. With the exception of a few scenes, it reads like straight exposition. It was so not good, that I thought about abandoning it. But, given the reviews, I struggled on, and of course it was worth it. Like every Steinbeck book, I started out thinking: Man, this book sucks. WTF? And then, by the middle, I thought: OMG, what's gonna happen? This is the bomb. And then by the end, I thought it was the best.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Vanessa

    A masterful and interwoven epic story and a half that takes the reader on a journey of grand proportions. Steinbeck knows how to weave a tale. This novel is rich in symbolism, the biblical references the thread that runs throughout this novel. I don’t know how Steinbeck does it, he gets inside the most intricate parts of the human soul, he knows how to show the human and the beast side. Also that ending got me good. To be honest I don’t even know how to review this book. For me after reading The A masterful and interwoven epic story and a half that takes the reader on a journey of grand proportions. Steinbeck knows how to weave a tale. This novel is rich in symbolism, the biblical references the thread that runs throughout this novel. I don’t know how Steinbeck does it, he gets inside the most intricate parts of the human soul, he knows how to show the human and the beast side. Also that ending got me good. To be honest I don’t even know how to review this book. For me after reading The Grapes Of Wrath I knew I was in safe hands as I was left in no doubt at the literary mastery that is Steinbeck, it also became a firm favourite, undoubtedly this novel much like the bible will stand the test of time as it’s a work of immense skill and I think I’m just feeling a little in awe right now that my words hardly seem worthy.

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