East of Eden by John Steinbeck book review

John Steinbeck is a household name. He’s an author who is known for writing some of the greatest literature of the 20th century. Many of us Brits have studied Of Mice and Men in our English classes and The Grapes of Wrath is considered one of the greatest novels he’s written. East of Eden is considered the other one.

East of Eden is the book that Steinbeck himself considers his magnum opus, so it must be good!

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East of Eden focuses on the Trasks and the Hamiltons – two families who live in the Salinas Valley. It covers the span of their lives including all the problems of life including growing up, parenting, right and wrong, morality and so much more.

East of Eden plot – 5/5

East of Eden by John Steinbeck is an epic. With its many editions now, the page count varies but the edition I read was around 600 pages – it is no quick read. However, as a result, you read one of the most encapsulating, rewarding stories you’ll ever read. Every single emotion, feeling, plot point and the possible story arc is covered in this book. You’ll read about death, life, happiness, sadness, the best of life and the worst of life.

It focuses on the lives of Adam Trask and his children, Samuel Hamilton and his family and the infamous and detestable Cathy. It takes you on a journey of real human problems – money, loss, self-worth, navigating the morality pathway and so much more.

East of Eden was an absolute joy to read. John Steinbeck has won a Nobel Prize for his contribution to literature and rightly so. I compel you to read this book and not come out of it feeling like there’s nothing else he could have said. It’s written in such a way where nearly everything is quotable either because it is written with such eloquence or because something complicated is written with such obvious simplicity. There’s a reason John Steinbeck’s work is often quoted throughout English classes.

East of Eden characters – 5/5

A book wouldn’t be a good book if it didn’t have characters to love and characters to hate and East of Eden most certainly does. Steinbeck writes characters who all have faults – he knows people aren’t all good as often written in literature, he knows they don’t all speak in perfect sentences and react the same way.

Each character in this book is easily definable. If you were to place a list of separate characteristics in front of me and ask which of these represented which character in this book, I’d be able to pick them out for you.

We can’t review characters without mentioning Cathy or “Kate”. She’s written as a truly nasty character – she enjoys being spiteful, she sets out to make others unhappy and yet she ends up becoming such an important part of the book that she must keep turning up and ruining people’s lives. Because of all of this, she’s one of the best characters in the book.

Then you have the dynamic between Adam and his son Cal. As Cal grows up he sometimes does things that are incredibly mean, however, he’s been told by his dad Adam that his mother (Cathy) is in fact dead so he’s unsure why he feels the want to be mean when his brother Aaron is so kind. So begins a battle with his morals as he tries so desperately to not be a mean man, a fascinating journey for the reader and Cal.

East of Eden by John Steinbeck Overall rating – 5/5

John Steinbeck has won a noble prize for a reason – East of Eden is one of the most complete and enjoyably written books I’ve ever read. It covers every plot point, every drama and every story arc you can think of. It discusses money, parenting, ageing, morality, war, loss, life and so much more all in one book. East of Eden also features some of the most memorable characters literature has ever had the grace to form. Read East of Eden, it may well just be my new favourite book of all time.

Looking for other books to read? Why not check out my up-to-date list of over 100 book reviews, all ordered 1-z bu author surnames.

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