I will start by saying that this book took a bit to get into. My son recommended it, and that created my entree. The narrator (Richard Poe) was outstanding. The story of the Trasks and the Hamiltons held my interest at the beginning, but I kept reserving judgment, wondering why Steinbeck considered this his greatest work. Steinbeck channels different messages through the stories of all the characters, but I think his alter ego was the Chinese character Lee, and it was in a dialog with Lee, about 30% into the story, that EoE started to come together in my mind as a mythic masterpiece. The writing, of course, is amazing. It brings you straight into early 20th century central California, with the same intensity that Larry McMurtry takes you into the old West. (Sorry for those who think it is an unfair comparison to either McMurtry or Steinbeck - Lonesome Dove is unrivaled for making the American past come alive through brilliant writing, even if nothing else by McMurtry was as good.)
This is an engrossing rendering of many characters but with the archetypes of Cain and Abel through the lens of the Salina Valley in California, via the characters of Charles and Adam and then Caleb and Aron. The C-A initials are a simple device that lets the reader know that when they think Cain and Abel, they have arrived in the author's mental neighborhood, but the layers and complexity from there are amazing, rich, and unpredictable.
The Hebrew expression "timshel" holds great import in this story, encapsulating a philosophy of human will and potential. I won't presume to know Steinbeck's held meaning, but Lee's exposition of the term is riveting and colors or flavors all of the character development in the story.
Definitely a high recommend, and a rare (for me) 5-star rating.
Loved the book, couldn't wait to get all the outcomes of each very interesting character. Lots of them die, which I am not sure is terribly realistic, though this was an epic of three generations, and yes, folks die. But I am thinking that JS killed some off just to get back to the main story of the Trasks. I have read some analyses of the story, and many critics panned the book for its poor structure and irrelevancies. I think it was a terrific book/story. As the climax began to build, I was expecting a bigger bang at the end. I am sorry that it sort of fizzled. As I look back on it and think over all the characters, I might charge Steinbeck with using the character of Lee as too obvious a device for Steinbeck's own voice.
Much like Tolstoy, JS is quite the philospher/moralizer, and he needed to constantly pound home his personal ideals; he used Lee to do that. The character of Cathy-Kate was obviously made from JS's own vengeance over something, yet he is not a mysoginist. in fact other women characters were very likable, respectable, flawed and generaly human. I tried very hard to impose the template of the Cain & Abel story on the book, but there were so many generations and so many brothers, it's hard to know just what he was trying to do. JS did a great job of using the Biblical story and changing it to a modern day (early 1900s) fiction; the hand of God was everywhere.
It's a good investment of time, and yet I needed the Kindle copy to have and read along. Some passages were very deep, very lyrical, very thought provoking. I needed the text to be able to work through some of it.
Only the ending kept me from making this a 5-star read.
I will take on Grapes and Mice/Men. Since East of Eden was later than both of those, it will be interesting to see if the critics who cited the former as his peak and East of Eden as his less polished work were right. Did Steinbeck peak and wane with E/E? I look forward to both of them.
Absolutely fantastic book! No doubt about it, its in my top 5, maybe even 3 of hundreds......Just get it. You WONT be sorry. If you enjoy family epic dramas with an author who isnt afraid to do to his characters what most others wont, please get this book! I just downloaded another of his books and cannot wait to start tonight. Drama, love, hate, friendship, marraige, humor, brotherhood, family relations, culture, history, and on and on it goes. What more can I say????
Yes, Of Course. This book is a classic. The story is beautiful. I have seen the movie on TV, but the audible version is exceptional due to the superb narration.
The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens. Not because the stories are even close, but because the story brings you from tears to laughter and back again, over and over again. Also, it is hard to put the book down even though you wish the story to go on and on and you hate to see it end.
Lee- of course. The accent was beautiful with just enough Chinese accent to make Lee believable and his character loveable.
The times in the Trask home when Lee told Abra that he wished she were his daughter. This scene was so moving because Lee had always spoke of himself as a servant and did not require anything for himself even though his wisdom was basically what kept the story moving along.
There is nothing to add to any review of this book. It has been around for such a long time and I hope that the next generation can appreciate it as much as mine has.
The book was perfect - wise beyond all expectations, a book to live your life and understand the world by, and yet a total page-turner. The suspense kept me listening for seven hours at a stretch. The performance was perfect - full of humanity, gravitas and a true understanding of the words. I recommend every word.
Avid audible listener for over 10 years.
This book as the title indicates is about brothers. East of Eden refers to the biblical story of Cain and Abel. There are two generations of brothers in this book, with each generation representing "Cain", the the other "Abel." Although it was written decades ago, the storyline is as relevant as ever, just as Shakespeare and Dickens would be. This book is overshadowed by Steinbeck's book "of Mice and Men", but is just as relevant. It combines a great story, historical facts (civil war and early California), and is why Steinbeck won a Nobel Prize. Take a break from trashy novels and listen to this.
I had always considered "Grapes of Wrath" the best book ever written. I figured for someone to write a masterpiece like that, their other books couldn't be any good. This book is so completely different and better in a lot of ways. I was blown away. Also, the narrator is absolutely flawless. I could listen to a 500 hour audiobook narrated by this guy.
I would have bet that Steinbeck wrote this long before The Grapes of Wrath because it is the lesser novel, but evidently he wrote this much later. It is too sprawling for even his control and stretches rely on narrative exposition rather than dramatic action or nuanced description. Perhaps it should have been longer still! No doubt my world is enriched for having read this and it is still a masterly work of fiction--it's in the top 500 novels ever but not the top 10 like Grapes of Wrath, and some of the characters will endure long into the future. Thematically more ambitious than Grapes of Wrath, the Cain and Abel structure is enlightening but less meaningful and less tangible than the historical forces at play in Grapes, at least for me. No Steinbeck enthusiast should miss this but a newcomer would be advised to start with Grapes. The reader is excellent and helps shape the experience.
Conservative, wars history Iraq, Civil, WW's classics, Twain, Steinbeck, Hemingway, my first audio bk old man and the sea. Addicted to audi
the story was great, i had read it when i was young . the history and lessons are about life. it was a wonderful book to listen to.
for whom the bell tolls, a classic and a classic
i am looking for another stienbeck to listen to right now
This has everything you want from a classic realist novel: superb descriptive writing, omplex characters, engrossing storyline, and some philosophical depth. The narration is very good.