Mini-Review: East of Eden

Set in the rich farmland of California’s Salinas Valley, this sprawling and often brutal novel 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.

Adam Trask came to California from the East to farm and raise his family on the new rich land. But the birth of his twins, Cal and Aaron, brings his wife to the brink of madness, and Adam is left alone to raise his boys to manhood. One boy thrives nurtured by the love of all those around him; the other grows up in loneliness enveloped by a mysterious darkness.

First published in 1952, East of Eden is the work in which Steinbeck created his most mesmerizing characters and explored his most enduring themes: the mystery of identity, the inexplicability of love, and the murderous consequences of love’s absence. A masterpiece of Steinbeck’s later years, East of Eden is a powerful and vastly ambitious novel that is at once a family saga and a modern retelling of the Book of Genesis.

What I Liked

The characters were fascinating. They were relatable and multi-dimensional, each having their own unique personality and quirks. No character was truly good, and no character was pure evil.

I loved the villain in this book who was truly selfish, unpredictable and malicious. Although I couldn’t relate to her, towards the end of the book I was glad to catch a glimpse of why she did the things she did, and what made her who she was.

Despite that this book was first published in the 1950s, it was surprisingly diverse and progressive. One of my favourite characters was a Chinese servant who spoke fluent English and was often wiser than the people he served.

Although there were references to the Bible in this book, it was never overtly religious. Being a non-religious person, I was still able to enjoy the story and the message it tried to convey.

The writing was amazing. Really loved the prose and the dialogue.

The characters and the message lingered with me long after I turned the last page.

What I Didn’t Like

East of Eden is 602 pages in print and 26 hours in audiobook format, and…. it actually felt longer than that. You guys all know how I feel about long books hahahaha.

The pacing was slow. It was very much a slice-of-life book that interwove the stories of various characters within multiple generations of two different families. It didn’t follow your typical story structure (ordinary world, rising action, inciting incident, climax, falling action.) And because of that, the plot didn’t have any urgency or forward motion. It was my love for the characters that kept me reading.

The Bottom Line

East of Eden was a memorable book about love and identity. I loved the characters, the message, and the writing. If you love a good literary classic and don’t mind a longer read and slower pacing, give this book a try!

4/5 fishies!

Photo by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash

Have you read East of Eden or other books by John Steinbeck? What is your favourite literary classic?

9 responses to “Mini-Review: East of Eden”

  1. I always associate John Steinbeck with English classes—his books were usually interesting (besides from their older prose). I never had to read East of Eden in school, so I still need to read it. I like that you mentioned that it’s more progressive for its time—I just can’t get over how long it is 😅.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Belle! Haha yes this is a longer book which deterred me at first as well. Overall I enjoyed it so I hope that you will like it as well when you have the chance to read 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sophie, I’ll be honest: I don’t really like John Steinbeck’s style, lol. Though the only books I read from him so far, are Of Mice and Men and Grapes of Wrath. Of Mice and Men was just too rough and crude for me: there was excessive swearing (I read it when I was a prudish teen, though), and I didn’t like how rough and tough the characters were. Grapes of Wrath also had characters who were too rough and tough for my taste, plus, I thought it was so boring… And you know I’m a pretty patient reader already. The stories were also too sad and depressing for me.

    Anyhow, I know many people love Steinbeck, especially Grapes of Wrath, so I want to emphasize that I’m not saying that his books are bad. I’m just saying that they are not my cup of tea. On the other hand, I read some quotes by Steinbeck, and though I’m not into his books, I do like him as a person!

    As for literary classics I enjoy, I’ll name a number of authors: the Bronte sisters, George Eliot, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, and Emile Zola. I have mixed feelings towards D.H. Lawrence, who is the author of Lady Chatterley’s Lover. I like how intense his stories are; yet, they are also disturbingly intense, haha.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Im not a huge fan of Steinbeck at this point either. Although I liked his prose, I thought east of Eden was a bit on the dull side haha. I haven’t read Of Micr and Men and Grapes of Wrath but certainly have heard of them. I appreciate the heads up haha 🙂 I also read The Pearl (for English class in grade 8) and can’t remember much about it.

      I have several books by the Bronte sisters that I should read one of these days 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yeah I get what you mean about this being slow, but I totally agree that the characters are amazing and the writing is stunning! Wonderful review!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post! I agree about the pacing – sometimes the plot does not seem to go anywhere in that book. However, one of my problems with this book was the dialogue. Some of the dialogues were a bit on the “artificial” side – I cannot imagine real human begins talking like that – it did not sound natural. I do not mean the language used, but the construction of sentences and the delivery, perhaps. I cannot give any examples, but it was just a strong impression I had.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Diana, glad that I’m not the only one who feels like the pacing is a bit slow in this book haha. I didn’t pay attention to the dialogue too much, however I can imagine that some of the word usage or sentence structures could be a bit unrealistic.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. […] I finished East of Eden, which was a multi-generational book about love and kindness, goodness and evil, family and self-acceptance, and the like. It was a slow-paced book and MUCH longer than my typical read, however I ended up really loving all the characters in this novel and felt inspired by its message. Check out my review here. […]


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