Tag Archives: John Steinbeck

East of Eden – Review

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East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Age: Adult

East of Eden is an epic tale of both the Hamilton and the Trask families. Written mostly as an ode to his own family, Steinbeck recreated the Salinas Valley and all its inhabitants in this tragic tale. Following the story of Cain and Abel, Steinbeck recreates a number of brother/sibling rivalries throughout the book that propel the narrative from one generation to the next.

I really don’t know what to say about this, how to sum it up and how to clearly define how I felt about it. This is one of my favorite books, hands down. Now I really understand why my boyfriend rereads this book once a year. Steinbeck did a fantastic job dissecting human nature, filial bonds, sibling rivalry, religion and all by connecting the dots through the religious story of Cain and Abel. There are a number of ways to dissect this book. Good v. Evil (Adam Trask v. Cathy, or Caleb v Aron). A study of human nature, nature v. nurture, fate v deliberate decisions, etc.

Lee is my favorite character. Lee and Samuel Hamilton were the most insightful, entertaining characters. I think Cathy was a sore spot. Other than just being pure evil, she did nothing for the narrative and her role was very stale even with her interactions with her sons. There was a small glint of change towards the end of her life, but she was otherwise a very dry character.

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I also wish Steinbeck had spent more time on his own family tree. The Hamiltons seem like such a fun, inventive and curious family. So large and varied with so many personalities. It was really awesome to get a glimpse into Steinbeck’s life reading this book. You really learn more about his writing style and his perspective on society when you learn about the family that surrounded him.

Since this was a book club pick, we decided to make it a book club field trip with a drive down to Salinas (its about a 2 hour drive from San Jose).

We of course went to the National Steinbeck center. Its a very interactive museum, following the course of his life, highlighting his work and lifelong accomplishments.

After that, we walked around Salinas a bit, recreating Cathy’s walk on her weekly outing from the Brothel that she ran. We also went to Steinbeck’s house, the house that is mentioned in East of Eden, the one where the famed author grew up. Unfortunately the house is closed on Sundays, so we were able to go inside for the tour, but I did plenty of peeking in through the windows to get a glimpse. Its so funny how authors are the famed celebrities of bookworms. My group was also a little bit morbid, because we went to see the Steinbeck grave at the Salinas cemetery.

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Reading East of Eden (and virtually any Steinbeck novel) then going to Salinas really makes the stories and the characters more real because Salinas has not changed very much since Steinbeck’s time there. Its a very small, quaint and somewhat run-down city.

If you are in the Bay Area, I also recommend stopping by the San Jose State University Steinbeck Center for more information, relics and educational resources on John Steinbeck.

East of Eden
by John Steinbeck
Penguin
ISBN 0142000655
601 pages

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Find this book at your local library

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Teaser Tuesday (6/1/2010)

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TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

# Grab your current read.

# Let the book fall open to a random page.

# Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page somewhere between lines 7 and 12.

# You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given! # Please avoid spoilers!

My Two Teasers:

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

And the books that came into the house, some of them secretly — well, 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.

I cheated a little with this Teaser Tuesday. I read these lines earlier today and had to find a place to share them. Its just such a poetic way to describe the love of reading. I have been thinking about this imagery pretty much all day. The idea of tunneling like a mole through a book, exploring every nook and cranny of ideas, themes and characters. I love it. I want to hug it and cherish this quote forever.

I love this book so far. Its wonderfully written and the characters are so vivid with life and personality. I’m reading this for book club, and we’re taking a field trip down to Salinas to talk about the book and explore the city John Steinbeck immortalized in his work. It should be a lot of fun. As far as a I know, Salinas has hardly changed since Steinbeck’s time.


Favorites

I know I’m not the only person that has a set of books that you keep around because you love, adore and want to read and reread for the rest of your life. Some books are wonderful, but like fads, their appeal wans after time. Some books just hit so close to home that no matter what happens, that book will always be a part of your life.

I read much more as a minor than I did once I got to college and lost a good chunk of my free time. Most of my favorite books are from my childhood, but I was an advanced reader. I read Interview with the Vampire when I was 11 because my parents wouldn’t let me watch the movie. I couldn’t get into the rest of Anne Rice’s books. The rest of the books seemed like mockaries of the Interview with the Vampire, so I after Queen of the Damned I stopped reading the rest of the books in the series.

My favorite Children’s book:

Most people would expect me to say Harry Potter, but alas, this topic goes to a children’s book of my childhood. The Princess and the Goblin. I read this book when I was in 4th grade, and it was such a wonderful little fairy tale, written so sarcastically by George MacDonald originally published in 1872. I may have read it at least 5 times between the ages of 7-10. This book was pretty influential in my life, as most of the books I went on to read had a fair amount of sarcasm and adult humor to it. I didn’t watch Sesame Street growing up. I did watch a few cartoons, but mostly I was raised by talk shows and soap operas (All My Children), and YA books.

Favorite Love Story:

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffengger. This book is just amazing. The main character is a librarian in Chicago with a genetic disease that allows him to time travel, although not voluntarily. Every time he travels, he shows up somewhere naked and is constantly struggling to survive. To survive against natural elements, against society, even against himself. Then only things that keep him stationary are his love for Claire, a girl he’s known since her childhood when he would go back in time, and running. I could gush about this book forever. I read it at a time when my boyfriend and I had just started a long distance relationship, and I could relate to the characters. Seeing your loved one in little spurts of time, not sure when you would see them again, and trying to make the best and most of each visit. I’m very nervous about the movie version of this book. I can only hope it does justice to the book.

Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Almost anything by Neil Gaiman, and George R.R. Martin’s Saga of Fire and Ice series. Masters in their own rights, able to create detailed worlds that rival Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I can’t pick out specific books to talk about with Neil Gaiman, because each thing he has written and published is so different from the rest of his work. He has his foot in nearly every field of creativity except for music. My favorites include American Gods and Neverwhere (Neverwhere was the first Gaiman book I read).  Stardust I am not particularly fond of, but Anansi Boys is hilarious.

William Saroyan.

A very popular Armenian-American author that is close to my heart because popular Armenian anything is so hard to find outside of Glendale, CA. His book The Human Comedy is very much like Steinbeck’s Cannery Row and Tortilla Flat, but deals with rural life in Fresno, CA. It tells the story of two brothers in Fresno and their lives. That sentence sounds so bland. But its a story about family and optimism and loyalty.