This sprawling and often brutal novel, set in the rich farmlands of California's Salinas Valley, follows the intertwined destinies of two families - the Trasks and the Hamiltons - whose generations helplessly reenact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel.
©1952 John Steinbeck; Renewed 1980 Elaine Steinbeck, Thom Steinbeck, and John Steinbeck IV (P)2011 Penguin Audio
East of Eden has to be one of the finest books every written by an American author. Over the years, I've read it about four times -- this was my first listen. Every time I read it again, I saw new things, new connections, new nuggets of insight I hadn't seen before -- this time, listening to it, that happened again. I lived for many years in Steinbeck country -- Pacific Grove, Monterey County -- so among the things I loved were the achingly beautiful descriptions of the countryside, the people, the farmers. A hundred years have passed, but many things in the Salinas Valley haven't changed -- it's still the "Salad Bowl" of the US, so when Adam Trask tries to ship lettuce to the east coast, that's probably based on a real story. I loved the tales of Salinas' early days, with the whorehouses, the churches, women wearing gloves - or not. (Come to think of it, there probably stilll are whorehouses there too) All in all, it's just a magnificent family saga, in every way. Makes you laugh, makes you cry. Incredible book -- and Richard Poe did a wonderful job narrating -- his "Lee" came fully to life for me, and I thought he made the very different characters of Caleb and Aaron clear, just by their voices and how they spoke. Really excellent book -- thanks Audible!
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This is a story of family, nuclear and global. The story centers around twin brothers Aaron and Caleb Trask, yet it becomes perhaps more a story of their parents, Adam and Catherine. Cathy is a dark character, a friend of murder, perversion, blackmail, and prostitution, devoid of humanity and Adam is just the opposite.
And there is Lee, the family servant who becomes both mother and father to the twins as the two parents abandon the boys for their own disparate reasons.
The mood and setting are tangible; the story epic. I'm so happy to be able to listen ( terrific narrator) to one of my favorite authors.
Incredible, incredible, incredible. Great story, great writing, and solid narration combine to make this a must-listen. I especially liked the dialogue and description of California such that the land almost becomes a character. Plus, the well-developed characters are all very original and you learn as much about their flaws as their strengths.
It takes place in the early 1900's and it is so well-written that you can smell, taste, and imagine the surroundings. The novel introduces several cultural references that make you feel like you really understand that time. Just incredible! I understand why Steinbeck thought this was "his magnum opus".
The narrator does a nice job given the complexity of so many characters.
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????
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.
This book has helped me better understand myself and other people from my life. Powerful message and griping story. Nararator Richard Poe does an amazing job.
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.
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.
I missed reading this when young, and the only impression I had of it was from the James Dean film, I am sad to say. This narrator sounds like the voice of Steinbeck whispering in your ear. I reach work in the morning desperate to leave my headphones on because I cannot bear to be parted from the book. It is the very best of Steinbeck produced and read to perfection. I may just start listening to it from the beginning in a couple of hours when I reach the end.
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I love Steinbeck but this is not one of my favorites. The prose were wonderful and there is marvelous imagery and strongly developed characters, yet I found something missing. Most of Steinbeck novels have a structure and flow quite different from most modern American novels. This is strongest in his short story collections and The Grapes of Wrath and To a God Unknown, but is also true of the Cannery Row novels. These all have a bit of a mystical flow and lack formulaic structures. East of Eden, in a few places, becomes slightly preachy and is slightly more formulaic than the best of Steinbeck. It is nevertheless very good and quite well worth reading. I really enjoyed the narration which was clear and had subtleties that enhanced the experience. I give this four stars only relative to the greatest of novels, which one might expect from Steinbeck.
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