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East of Eden by John Steinbeck

East of Eden (original 1952; edition 2002)

by John Steinbeck

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
15,110275126 (4.41)1 / 721
Title:East of Eden
Authors:John Steinbeck
Info:Penguin (Non-Classics) (2002), Edition: CENTENNIAL EDITION, Paperback, 601 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

East of Eden by John Steinbeck (1952)

  1. 150
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    A Journey into Steinbeck's California by Susan Shillinglaw (Waldstein)
    Waldstein: Fascinating coffee table book, lavishly illustrated with photos and maps, well-written too. Sort of Steinbeck's "Californian" biography, though it also covers his living in New York and travels to Mexico. Plenty of interesting real-life background of "East of Eden" and many of his other works. Compelling insight into Steinbeck's personality.… (more)
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English (262)  French (2)  German (2)  Dutch (2)  Italian (2)  Finnish (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (272)
Showing 1-5 of 262 (next | show all)
A terrific novel. One of the very best. It is a saga scoped out across two parts of the US but involving other locations with the last half of the novel set in Steinbeck's belovered Salinas Valley. It's period is between the Civil War and the time of the US's late entry in the dying days of the 1st World War. It is the story of the good and evil that the US's civilisation has imbibed from their heavy reliance on protestant christian faith and the old testament creation story. But there is a difference here and Steinbeck pulls it around the simple and trite interpretation of that story. On the surface the story is about Adam Trask as the wet but essentially good person and his incarnately evil love interest Cathy Ames. All the way through the novel we have characters set off against each other whose name starts with C or A thus invoking the biblical Cain and Able myth. However, the two most telling characters - most wonderful characters through whom the interpretative moral tale of these people (and protestant US generally) should be read - are Samuel Hamilton and Lee the Chinese cook and friend of Adam and defact parent to his sons. It is in the discussions, in groups of three or different pairs, that the story should be read. Central to the interpretation is the tale Lee tells of Chinese sages, acquaintances of his, who, pusseled with the english translation of the Genesis book of the bible, learn hebrew to read that story in its oldest transcription and before any Greek or Latin and English transcription. Here they suggest a mid way between the simplistic good and evil interpretation. This is what I see is the import of this novel.

I watched the James Dean film with this title just after I read the book and what a mess that made of the story. Innovative though the film making might be, it is not true to Steinbeck, misses the point of the novel and leaves out one of the most important characters - Lee the Chinese cook, parent and philosopher. ( )
1 vote Edwinrelf | May 15, 2016 |
I am not quite sure how best to review this book without spoiling anything. I think this book would best be read without any knowledge of the characters or situations in the book because the book is brilliant and beautiful and any hint of what is to come might dampen the experience. I guess I will say as little as possible and try to explain what makes it so good.

At its heart, this is a book about free will and whether it exists. This is told through a multi-generational epic taking place during the late nineteenth and first twenty years of the twentieth century but is also told through allusions to the story of the book of Genesis. In many ways, this story is just a retelling of Genesis, but it also asks questions about it and us and why we are here. The writing is beautiful and flawless and the depth of storytelling works on every level. This book is incredible. ( )
  fuzzy_patters | Apr 29, 2016 |
  MrsDoglvrs | Apr 24, 2016 |
I am amazed that I finished this tome in a month. I read this for the Great Books discussion group, and, yes, we spent the full 1.75 hours discussing it. The Cain and Abel story is a thematic device, and it's doubled in that it is used in the two generations of the family saga. The autobiographical bits serve as a loosely connected framing device. There are brilliant episodes which resonate: the Sam Hamilton-Lee conversation in the buckboard re: service, hiding, and attitudes towards the Chinese; John & Mary's conversation with Tom about her wanting to be a boy; John & Mary -- German-American children -- picking on the town's German immigrant; brilliant writing about place. These can easily be excerpted. Our discussion ranged about the large question of good & evil that Steinbeck says the novel is about: we took him at his word. The character of Cathy is a puzzle: is she just a plot device? Did Steinbeck think that some people really were born "monsters"? Is the real struggle not parent-child but sibling? Is the doubling of the story necessary? It's a long book. It's a rich book. Steinbeck deserved the Nobel. He remains one of my favorite writers. So glad to have read this: I would have avoided it because of its size. ( )
1 vote AmyMacEvilly | Apr 7, 2016 |
Standing at the plate, Steinbeck swung hard at this one. A crack and a soaring whoosh, the red-thread-and-leather moon enters the nighttime sky, soaring high over the crowd. Forget gravity; forget time. Look at it hang there, impossibly. That's this novel. I think of it as a mashup of Genesis and Grapes of Wrath. I loved it. I loved that at the end we are left with Cal and his whore mother, a fishwife with knives for eyes and an ophidian knot for a heart, and his father's mixed blessing: "Timshel," Hebrew for "Thou mayest." It's a sweet novel, well worth the eyestrain. ( )
1 vote evamat72 | Mar 31, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 262 (next | show all)
Novelist Steinbeck has done some of his best writing in East of Eden. As always, he describes his Salinas Valley with fidelity and charm. Moreover, individual scenes and yarns are frequently turned with great skill. But whether as a novel about pioneers in a new country or just men & women working out their private, earthly fates, East of Eden is too blundering and ill-defined to make its story point. That point, says Steinbeck, is "the never-ending contest in ourselves of good and evil." East of Eden has over-generous portions of both, but a novelist who knows what he wants channels them, he doesn't spill them.
added by Shortride | editTime (Sep 22, 1952)
Probably the best of John Steinbeck's novels... ["East of Eden's"] dramatic center is a narrow story of social horror that rests quite disarmingly on the proposition that "there are monsters born in the world to human parents." But through the exercise of a really rather remarkable freedom of his rights as a novelist, Mr. Steinbeck weaves in, and more particularly around, this story of prostitution a fantasia of history and of myth that results in a strange and original work of art.
added by Shortride | editThe New York Times Book Review, Mark Schorer (pay site) (Sep 21, 1952)
A fine, lusty sense of life is here, a delight in the spectacle of men and women struggling in the age-old ways to meet their separate destines, and an abundance of good story-telling... John Steinbeck has grown in his respect for his fellow human beings, in his understanding of them. He has reached mature and thoughtful conclusions about them. And he has expressed his conclusions in interesting and thought-provoking fashion.
added by Shortride | editThe New York Times, Orville Prescott (pay site) (Sep 19, 1952)

» Add other authors (19 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Steinbeck, Johnprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Eggink, ClaraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Linturi, JoukoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Poe, RichardNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wyatt, DavidIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Pascal Covici

Dear Pat,

You came upon me carving some kind of little figure out of wood and you said, "Why don't you make something for me?" I asked you what you wanted, and you said, "A box." "What for?" "To put things in." "What things?" "Whatever you have," you said. Well, here's your box. Nearly everything I have is in it, and it is not full. Pain and excitement are in it, and feeling good or bad and evil thoughts and good thoughts--the pleasure of design and some despair and the indescribable joy of creation.

And on top of these are all the graditude and love I have for you. And still the box is not full.


First words
The Salinas Valley is in Northern California.
You must not forget that a monster is only a variation, and that to a monster the norm is monstrous.
I don't very much believe in blood. I think when a man finds good or bad in his children he is seeing only what he planted in them after they cleared the womb. - Samuel Hamilton
And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual.
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Disambiguation notice
East of Eden was written by John Steinbeck, not Ernest Hemingway.
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Book description
Often described as Steinbeck's most ambitious novel, East of Eden brings to life the intricate details of two families, the Trasks and the Hamiltons, and their interwoven stories.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0142000655, Paperback)

FOR USE IN SCHOOLS AND LIBRARIES ONLY. The biblical account of Cain and Abel is echoed in the history of two generations of the Trask family in California.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:57 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

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.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 9 descriptions

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An edition of this book was published by Audible.com.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141185074, 0241952492

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