Reviews

East of Eden, by John Steinbeck

rk0's review against another edition

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5.0

This was......
words fail me.........

I remember reading Of Mice and Men back during the summer of Grade 9. I loved the book so much that I still think about it to this day. John Steinbeck is an amazing talented writer. He referred to East of Eden as his Magnum Opus (Masterpiece) and you can tell.

This book is what I've been dying to read about. It has themes of gender, race, religion, and most importantly good vs evil.

Steinbeck uses the story of Cain and Abel as an allegory and general plot BUT his intentions are otherwise. What East of Eden is inherently trying to communicate to the audience is whether man's concept of good and evil can be concrete. Can a man/women be destined to be evil/good? If a person is good/evil does that mean that their offspring will inherently be so? Where is the boundary between good and evil? Can man live on that boundary and just how large is that boundary?
Throughout the novel Steinbeck clearly express that humans are complex creatures capable of a whole range of emotions and thoughts. Even characters who existentially have no soul are redeemable because they become pitied by the other characters and the reader. Essentially we all live in a grey area. Our experience and upbringing help shape us but it's ultimately how we choose to view the world that shapes our nature. Guilt, lust, anger, jealousy, regret, hate, violence, etc are vices found in all of us yet we cannot deem a person as "evil" just because they openly reveal this behaviour, after all what's the difference between someone who openly manipulates people and someone who contains this manipulation?
It's these questions and thoughts that Steinbeck is continuously trying to get the reader to think about.

This book is mainly a character driven plot. You follow the perspectives of many characters whose thoughts and actions are told to you through the narrator who is John Steinbeck (if you read this book, you would get this poke at the reader). You move at a constant pace but when you switch POV you may end up rereading a previous scenario but from a new character's perspective. Each character is unique and they grow on you. Some have relevance to the plot while others don't. Overall, it's kind of like a book on life. You learn the backstory and struggles of each character and see the difficulties they face and how it shapes their perspective of the world. Adam who is kind of the main character goes through a lot and he allows his experience to affect him. He is lost in a sense. He sees no purpose of his existence. It's only through the stubbornness of Lee and Samuel that he goes on. He's a peculiar character because he doesn't want to be like his father and brother and for a long time he sees a clear definite line between good and evil. When it gets shattered he himself falls into this grey area or as Steinbeck would have called it, Timshel.

Lee in my opinion, is god. He is my favourite character. I loved reading from his perspective. He essentially becomes a mother and father to Adam and his kids. His backstory is tragic but his view of life is magnetic. I wanted to highlight every words to wisdom he uttered but I couldn't since this was a library copy. His discussion on race is I think what many of us struggle to convey today. In fact Steinbeck was very clever with how he introduced Lee. You see, Lee is Chinese. More precisely, American Chinese. When you are first introduced to him Steinbeck makes Lee speak in pidgin language, basically a very stereotypical even racist view of how a Chinese person would speak English (get the picture?). When I first read this I took a step back. I had to remind myself that this was the 50's and the period the book took place in was from 1880-1920 so of course we might see issues involving race and gender in books but Steinbeck is a clever little man. He uses this to break a stereotype that Lee himself talks about. A stereotype that I sadly still see today. It was a first for me to read and it gained my respect for him as an author.

The women in this book are not weak nor do they have same personalities. Each has their own behaviour and it influences their children. As you read this book you see who they are from their children's and husband's perspective and later on in life some of the children credit their mothers for their personalities.

This was a great book to start off the year with. I've been a fan of Steinbeck even though I had only read Of Mice and Men. He has this way to showing the humanity in being grey but also the brutality of it which is basically what man is capable of being. His goal was to tell readers that it's okay to constantly go between good and evil because you're human. You always get a choice and you must do what you think it best. If it turns out to be a bad decision, that doesn't discredit you nor does it disqualify you from being human. It just becomes an experience

I do not own Of Mice and Men nor East of Eden but I plan to. The only one I own is The Pearl which I recently bought. He is a truly gifted writer and you can tell why this book won the Nobel Award. I don't think I need to recommend this book to you because it is able to speak for itself.

OK, I'll stop praising John Steinbeck now and leave you all in peace.

gbp427's review against another edition

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emotional reflective medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0

This book. Holy shit. It is my favorite book now. I don't even know where to begin describing how moving and powerful and amazing this book is. Anyway, my first tattoo is going to be of "timshel" so I guess that is a good indication. I would recommend this book to anyone at all in the entire world.

kienie's review against another edition

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3.0

This is four novels for the price of one. At the heart of it is the story of Cain and Able and the question of free choice. It was a strange experience, reading this story as it flowed from one generation to the next, manifesting itself again and again. Steinbeck still can't really do "subtle," but altogether the novel is a tiring but fulfilling experience. You don't have to read the first three parts, but they create an almost mythological atmosphere in part four.

bhanson24's review against another edition

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5.0

Excellent. Why have I not read Steinbeck before? His writing is wonderful. I'm sad to be done with this book.

briannasmith's review

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dark emotional reflective slow-paced

5.0

3njennn's review against another edition

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5.0

My favorite book

kelseymangeni's review against another edition

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2.0

This one I struggled with a lot, and I don’t think it was just quarantine brain. There were so many pages with no dialogue, just the author’s random musings. This book easily could have been edited down a couple hundred pages. It was okay.

carleythorne's review

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challenging reflective slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? It's complicated
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.0

sbarrettbooster's review

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dark emotional funny hopeful informative sad tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.5

A relatively easy read for a classic.  A sprawling story.  i really enjoyed Chapter 34 which was a kind of standalone essay about life.

ctyowza's review against another edition

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adventurous challenging dark emotional tense slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0