Thursday, January 26, 2012

East of Eden; John Steinbeck

Author:  John Steinbeck
Publication Year: (originally 1952)
Publisher: Penguin (2002) (Recorded Books - audio)
Edition: trade softcover and audio book
Source: my copy and Library audio book
Setting: (mostly Salinas Valley, California)
Date Completed: 1/20/2012
Rating: 5/5
Recommend: yes - a must read!

It's always difficult for me to write a review about a book I absolutely loved.  I can't believe I waited this long to read this epic masterpiece.  The writing is beautiful, the story and characters memorable; it's one of those stories you will never forget, but you will want to reread even though you know what will happen.

--just one of my favorite passages---

"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 influence 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 contests 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 fresh young face,  while virtue is venerable as nothing else in the world is."

The book is 600 pages and the audio book was read by Richard Poe, a favorite reader. I loved the audio, but needed to reread sections, just because the writing was so wonderful.  The story is somewhat autobiographical and it also reminds the reader of the biblical story of Cain and Abel from the Book of Genesis. It is a story which spans a period covering the Civil War and World War 1, but yet, it is not a story about our country at war.

It's a story of three generations and two families. The family of Samuel and Liza Hamilton, Irish immigrants. Samuel was a wise and loving man, and a wonderful husband and father to nine children.  The other family is Cyrus and Alice Trask, and their two sons Charles and Adam.  Cyrus is a tough on his boys as well as his wife. 

Adam and Charles Trask are brothers with personalities as different as day and night, from an early age they vie for their father's love and approval. Adam is gentle, Charles is mean. After their mother passes away and later their powerful father, Cyrus, the brothers are left a large sum of money. Adam marries a woman named Cathy, who he knows very little about. Not only is she conniving, she has a sordid past and is pure evil. She's a woman who will do whatever it takes to get what she wants. Shortly after they move away to Salinas Valley, California, Cathy gives birth to twin sons, who she wants nothing to do with.  Not only doesn't she want to be a mother, she has no interest in being a wife either. She does what she must to escape her situation.

Lee, is a Chinese cook and servant for the Trasks who basically raises the young boys, after Cathy leaves. Adam is devastated after his wife has left and unable to deal with the young twins. It is only after she is gone that the twins are even given names after Lee insists on it.  They are named Caleb (Cal) and Aron,  after Cain and Abel.

Lee was an amazing character, a gentle and smart man who shares his bits of wisdom though out the story.  The boys, like their father and his brother Charles, are opposites, and each compete for their father's love and affection as well.  As the boys grow up Cal learn bits and pieces about the mother they knew.  Eventually they meet her, and one son fears he shares some of his mother's evil traits.

While the first half of the book tells mostly the story of the Hamilton's, Cyrus and Alice Trask and their son's Charles and Adam.  The second half's focus is on the sons of Adam and Cathy, Caleb (Cal) and Abel.

The entire story held my interest, and the 600 pages and numerous audio discs came to an end all too quickly. I want to read it again already.  So happy I read this book -- you must move it up on your TBR list--you'll be glad that you did. This is sure to be a new top 5 books of all time.

35 comments:

  1. Ah, I have so many classics to read. This one's on my list somewhere...Thanks for the review, though. Maybe I'll bump it up on the list a bit. =)

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  2. I really have to read this book.

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  3. Definitely one of my all-time favourites. I am hoping to read this book in the next few weeks. Glad you enjoyed the book!

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  4. I was a little comprehensive about reading Steinbeck's bigger works (besides Of Mice and Men) and since you like it, I think I may well do too! Thanks for the wonderful review.

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  5. It's one of my favorite books, Diane. I'm so glad you loved it.

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  6. WOW, I have a copy of this book (the one pictured in your review). I should read this as my classic for this year. It also sounds like I can listen to it, even better.

    I'm so happy for you to have found a favorite book, it's a rare treat!

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  7. I really need to read more Steinbeck. I read The Pastures of Heaven in college and loved it, but haven't got around to reading more of his work. Glad you loved this one...better late than never!

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  8. Definitely one of my top 5, too! I'm hoping to reread the Grapes of Wrath soon... will check out the audio version.

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  9. I'm so glad you loved it as much as I did. It really is a fantastic story. And what a great quote to highlight!

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  10. What a great review! I loved this book as well, and whenever I see that someone has read it and loved it, I do a little silent cheer in my head. It is such an intricate and moving story, and one that I feel hits all of life's intricacies and entanglements. So, so glad that you loved this one and that it's a new favorite!

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  11. This is an all time favorite of mine too. A friend recommended it to me and I was happy that she did. I couldn't put this one down.

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  12. I love the quote about living your life so your death won't give anyone pleasure. Words to live by.

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  13. I always get excited when people love a book as much as I did. I have read this three times now and I'm thinking about a fourth although now that you've liked the audio I may try that.

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  14. I really enjoyed this one too. It's been years since I read it and I still remember it fondly. Great review!

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  15. I loved this book and think of the characters often. Loved the line in the book that said something like up the road, Leland Stanford was trying to get a college started.

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  16. I don't know why I haven't read this book yet. I really need to!

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  17. I really like Steinbeck but haven't read this one yet. I didn't realize it was so long. glad you loved it!

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  18. This is a wonderful review, Diane. I cannot believe I've really never read Steinbeck. This book is definitely on my wishlist and at the top. Your enthsiasm for this book makes me excited to read it.
    Thank you!

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  19. This is my favorite author, and fave book by him. Epic!

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  20. Oh I loved this one too. The characters were so vivid, and the human emotion so raw...just wonderful

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  21. Isn't this one amazing! I don't think I've encountered a character as evil as Cathy. She's ridiculously bad.

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  22. East of Eden is one of my favorite novels - and like you, I can't believe I waited so long to read it. I definitely intend to reread this soon.

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  23. I don't know why I haven't read it yet. I think it was that cheesy miniseries in the 70s or 80s.

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  24. This is one of my absolute favorite books. So glad to hear you loved it, too!

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  25. Your review has inspired me to listen to this one!!! Thank you!

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  26. I loved this one, but it was so long ago that I simply must reread it. Thanks for reminding me...and that was a beautiful passage.

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  27. I read Grapes of Wrath recently. Before that I had only read Of Mice and Men by Steinbeck. I really want to read more of his works and this looks like a good one!

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  28. Thanks for this wonderful review, Diane. This book has been on my TBR list but somehow I just totally forgot about it... mmm, maybe due to its length. But I must move it further to the front, need to read it before the film comes out. Yes, a new film adaptation of is in development.

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  29. Steinbeck is my husband's favourite author but I've only ever read Of Mice and Men, and that was back in secondary school. Of all his other books, I think this is the one I would like to try...

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  30. One of these days I am going to read more Steinbeck. I have only read Of Mice and Men...

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  31. I've always loved the James Dean movie, but have yet to read the book. I think I will try on my next vacation as I am sure I would love it too!

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  32. A friend loaned me this one and even given that I loved Of Mice and Men, I've been putting this biggie off. Sounds like one I need to read in February!

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  33. Wow! That is quite an enthusiastic endorsement! I guess I didn't realize this one was so long, but the story sounds so compelling I may have to find the time.

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  34. I have the book and audiobook, but just the thought of 600 pages makes me keep my distance. The mood will strike one day, and I will jump in. Thanks for the encouraging words.

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  35. I just finished this and is so overwhelmed by how good it is!!!
    Lee IS the best character for me.
    I am posting this soon, and will link yours if you don't mind.

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