East of Eden by John Steinbeck

East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Length:  602 pages
Genre:  Fiction, Classics
My Rating:  4 stars

East of Eden is a sweeping multi-generational family saga that follows two families: the Trasks and the Hamiltons. The setting is the early 1900’s in Salinas Valley, California. This novel is considered Steinbeck’s most ambitious novel. When it was first published, it quickly climbed to the top of the fiction best-seller list. Steinbeck himself considered it his masterpiece.

Steinbeck crafted a story that demonstrates the complexity people can hold within themselves. The novel explores a multitude of themes including but not limited to depravity, guilt, freedom, rejection, self-acceptance, love and the absence of love. Deeply existential questions are explored. In addition, in his own way, I think Steinbeck tried to combat some prejudice mindsets prevalent at that time by portraying one of the characters that was subject to discrimination as one of the most beloved characters of the novel. That character’s name was Lee. Not only was Lee wise, loyal, educated, scholarly, and a great reader – he was also the stabilizing force and rock of the Trask family.

I am so glad I read this novel. In fact, after reading it I knew I wanted to re-read The Grapes of Wrath which I did back in April. (I didn’t particularly care for The Grapes of Wrath much the first time I read it.) You can read my review of it HERE. In East of Eden, Steinbeck wrote a gripping story that kept me turning the pages. The novel is at times brutal and disturbing. And at times it is beautiful. But at all times, the writing style and story are both gripping and engrossing. I was drawn into the story from the moment I picked up the book until the very end when, as I turned the last page, I sat stunned at the complexity and layers and magnificent writing.

9 thoughts on “East of Eden by John Steinbeck

  1. Ditto every word. I also love Lee, and Steinbeck’s beautiful writing and ability to write about difficult topics. Many have problem with Cathy-or Kathy? but if you think that she could have been a psychopath, it can make sense. It’s just my theory. There’s not that many psychopath women, but it’s not impossible to have a woman like her.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lee was one of my favorite characters in the book as well.

      Regarding Cathy, I read that she was considered a female psychopath. Steinbeck himself described her in the novel as a monster. The SparksNotes guide described her character as the embodiment of evil in the novel.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My husband has been recommending this to me for some time. I never thought I would like Steinbeck having tried and failed with Grapes of Wrath but I did enjoy Cannery Row so I think I will give him another go

    Liked by 1 person

    • I would say definitely give East of Eden a try. Then maybe try re-reading The Grapes of Wrath after that. As I mentioned in my review of The Grapes of Wrath, after having read East of Eden, I wanted to give The Grapes of Wrath a second read since I didn’t care for it as much the first time around. I ended up liking The Grapes of Wrath so much more the second time around.

      I want to read more of Steinbeck’s works. I want to read The Pearl and I’ll have to make sure Cannery Row is on the list. 🙂


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