East of Eden

East of Eden

Book - 1992
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A masterpiece of Biblical scope, and the magnum opus of one of America's most enduring authors

A Penguin Classic

In his journal, Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck called East of Eden "the first book," and indeed it has the primordial power and simplicity of myth. 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.

The masterpiece of Steinbeck's later years, East of Eden is a 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. Adapted for the 1955 film directed by Elia Kazan introducing James Dean and read by thousands as the book that brought Oprah's Book Club back, East of Eden has remained vitally present in American culture for over half a century.

This edition features an introduction by David Wyatt.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,800 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
Publisher: New York : Penguin Books, 1992.
ISBN: 9780140186390
Branch Call Number: STEI
Characteristics: xxx, 602 p. ; 20 cm.


From the critics

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Feb 06, 2020

Interesting likeable book.
Steinbeck descriptions of scenery and the time period flow with color and life.
Two or three dry spots but we'll worth the read.

Jan 28, 2020

Not the greatest book ever written.. perhaps my expectations were too high because of all the glowing reviews. Long and wordy. Slow. So many of the characters had no redeeming characters, perhaps well developed, but not endearing by any stretch. A few remarkable characters, but the overall plot moved at a glacial speed. This is a book to read in a classroom setting to dissect it as you go. There's a lot in the book to further explore and research, but that's not what I was looking for at this moment in time. I'm going to watch the movie, but my expectations have been lowered quite a bit.

Dec 01, 2019

Oprah top ten (probably 2000-2010 list??)
Books That Made a Difference to Oprah
For someone who describes herself as "inspired, challenged, and sustained" by books, it was almost impossible for Oprah to stay within our limit of 10. Here are her picks, but she emphasized that it was only a sampler of delightful titles that have also managed to teach her—and all of us—a few things.

Starting with...

Discover the Power Within You
By Eric Butterworth
256 pages; HarperOne

Advice from the internationally known spiritual teacher.

Oprah's next pick: A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle
A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle

A New Earth
By Eckhart Tolle
316 pages; Plume

There's a reason Oprah picked this for her Book Club in 2008—and that she gave audience members Post-it pens along with their copies. So much wisdom, so little time! A real-life guide to living your best life.

Oprah's next pick: The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

The Poisonwood Bible
By Barbara Kingsolver
576 pages; Harper Perennial

This novel is about a family embroiled in the political turmoil of postcolonial Africa. It established Kingsolver as one of our wisest observers of history, politics, and human nature.

Oprah's next pick: Night by Elie Wiesel
Night by Elie Wiesel

By Elie Wiesel
120 pages; Hill and Wang

A memoir of a childhood suffered in concentration camps during the Holocaust. It's horrific but uplifting. "I gain courage from his courage," Oprah says.

Oprah's next pick: A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

A Fine Balance
By Rohinton Mistry
624 pages; Vintage

A Dickensian novel about India during the Emergency. Like the aftermath of September 11, it teaches us about cultures we haven't understood. "It takes us out of our own little shell and exposes us to a whole other world out there," Oprah says.

Oprah's next pick: East of Eden by John Steinbeck
East of Eden by John Steinbeck

East of Eden
By John Steinbeck
608 pages; Penguin

This classic is about good and evil as played out in a late-19th-century California ranch family. If you didn't read it in high school, read it now. If you did, reread it!

Oprah's next pick: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
By David Wroblewski
576 pages; HarperCollins

A kind of Hamlet on the prairie, this is the wrenching story of a mute boy and his dog. Oprah compares it to East of Eden and To Kill a Mockingbird.

Oprah's next pick: The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

The Pillars of the Earth
By Ken Follett
973 pages; Penguin

About the challenges of building cathedrals in 12th-century England, this novel couldn't be more different in setting, time, and plot from the author's breakthrough success, Eye of the Needle. Oprah declares it simply "great."

Oprah's next pick: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

The Bluest Eye
By Toni Morrison
224 pages; Penguin

How to choose among the great Morrison's novels? Start with this one about a girl who thinks she has to have blue eyes to be beautiful. Oprah considers it one of the best in a crowded Morrison field.

Oprah's next pick: The Known World by Edward P. Jones
The Known World by Edward P. Jones

The Known World
By Edward P. Jones
400 pages; HarperCollins

When this book was published in 2003, it shocked everybody with its depiction of slave-owning blacks before the Civil War. A daring, unusual examination of race.

Read more: http://www.oprah.com/omagazine/oprahs-favorite-books-from-the-past-decade/all#ixzz66sODP

Sep 01, 2019

Wait for Steph

Aug 31, 2019

No writer epitomizes America in all of its pain, glory, tragedy, contradiction, and diversity quite like John Steinbeck, and East of Eden may accomplish this summation of Americana more than any of his other work. To be sure, the novel is a grand achievement, not just for Steinbeck, but for the long narrative form and the general reading public as a whole. I would nominate East of Eden for the title of Great American Novel before Huckleberry Finn (and I mean no disrespect to the latter). It is as epic in scope and skillful in its world-building as any fantasy tome; the Civil War ends and World War I commences between its covers, and the plight of humanity is recounted across three generations. The characters are oceanic in their depth and richly described, particularly Samuel Hamilton and Lee the Chinese servant. The villainess is more haunting than Maleficent and, despite the book's density, it is a rather quick read and compulsively difficult to put down once you've begun to read it.

Jul 29, 2019

I usually don't enjoy these kinds of books, but East of Eden's ideas were pretty good. The ending is particularly stunning and probably one of the best conclusions I've read this year.

Dec 14, 2018

I try to read a couple edifying books/capital-L Literature every year. East of Eden rates highly, so I went for it. I vaguely remember reading Steinbeck in school, but must have been thinking of another author because I was expecting a quiet, classic read. This book, much to my delight, is bananas: startlingly violent, challenging, haunting, full of amoral characters, unloved children, secrets, fortunes gained and lost, and sorrow, loss, and unrequited love. It's magnificent and takes place over generations and across a continent. Bonus: The writing is gorgeous and entirely accessible.

SPPL_Betsy Mar 14, 2018

John Steinbeck sets this family saga in California’s Salinas Valley, the same region his mother’s family settled after leaving Ireland. In fact, the Hamilton family portrayed in East of Eden is based on Steinbeck’s maternal side of the family, and he can be found within the pages as a minor character. The second family East of Eden follows is the Trasks, a fictional family that Steinbeck created in part to represent biblical stories such as Adam and Eve (Adam and Kate Trask), and Cain and Abel (Cal and Aron Trask). The Hamiltons and Trasks are intertwined throughout this epic novel after the patriarchs of each family, Samuel Hamilton and Adam Trask, befriend one another and remain neighbors throughout much of the book.

East of Eden is a classic novel that explores themes such as free will, good versus evil, light versus dark, and hatred versus love. At the same time, Steinbeck writes about the history and geography of the Salinas Valley, and the battles fought within and outside of the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries. It is a piece of literature that will appeal to fans of classics, and historical fiction. Those who enjoy literary fiction will appreciate Steinbeck's richly descriptive writing style and his intense psychological analysis of multiple characters.

Aug 16, 2017

A rather long book, but by far my favorite Steinbeck novel. Very descriptive detailing of the families in the story across three generations.

Andrew Kyle Bacon
Aug 14, 2017

(very slight spoilers contained herein) Each summer I try to undertake a somewhat rigorous (rigorous for me anyway), reading program which culminates in reading an epic tome of one sort or another. Last summer my tome was Dostoyevsky's "The Idiot," and this year the selection was Steinbeck's "East of Eden."

All at once this book is overwrought, excessive, self-indulgent, and marvelous. The very basic concepts of its narrative stem from the book of Genesis, although attempting to make too many comparisons will likely cause one to read too much into the text. But the basic DNA of Genesis is found here and Steinbeck uses it effortlessly to craft a story that stretches decades and generations.

Primarily the story is concerned with two families: the Hamiltons and the Trasks. The Hamiltons, as it turns out, are the forerunners to the Steinbecks, giving this novel a slight (however fictitious) autobiographical quality (certainly Steinbeck himself appears in the novel). The Trasks, however, are the central focus of the novel, with their story largely be concerned and focused into the man of Adam Trask and his two sons, Caleb and Aaron.

The great flaw of this novel, unfortunately, is where the Hamiltons are involved, or, rather, where their story takes precedent over the novel's actual narrative. For chapters at a time the story revolves around the Hamiltons for no reason, it would seem, other than they are personally interesting to the author. The real dynamic force of the novel is completely held within the Trask family and their narrative. The involvement of the Hamiltons works best when they remain secondary characters. Yet somehow this great flaw seems even more so to connect to the book to its source: the book of Genesis, and its narrative detailing the origins of humankind. The difference, of course, being that the whole population of the world is not singularly descended from the Hamiltons and the Trasks.

But this greatest of flaws somehow still empowers the book, driving you beyond the scope of the Trasks and yet ever you remain zeroed in on this story which ultimately culminates in the twin brothers Cal and Aron (we are told that Aaron likes to spell his name with one A and not two). Steinbeck seems to reverse much of the narrative of Genesis, beginning with the birth of Adam and his brother Charles in a relationship that seems inspired by that of Jacob and Esau or even Isaac and Ishmael. After this it moves onto Adam discovering his Eve, marrying her, and her reveling against the man. Here, rather than man plunging the world into sin from a spiritual standpoint, Steinbeck takes a more literal interpretation and has the woman plunge man into sin. From their relationship comes the twins Cal and Aron, the two more charismatic and likable characters in the entire book, and we know beyond a shadow of a doubt how their story must end.

When it finally comes to the point and Cal says the line we've all been waiting for, "How do I know? Am I supposed to look after him?", it is incredibly satisfying. It seems as though through this single novel Steinbeck set out to redeem Cain from the murder of his brother, and I must say that he gives it a splendid try. Because the end of all things man has agency in his life and this side of death he can make of his choices whatever he wishes. His parents may leave a lasting imprint on him, but ultimately each man decides what kind of man he is.

"Timshel — thou mayest — that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if Thou mayest — it is also true that Thou mayest not..."

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Jul 29, 2019

We have only one story. All novels, all poetry, are built on the never-ending contest in ourselves of good and evil. And it occurs to me that evil must constantly respawn, while good, while virtue, is immoral. Vice has always a new fresh young face, while virtue is venerable as nothing else in the world is.

Jul 29, 2019

When a child first catches adults out–when it first walks into his grave little heads that adults do not have divine intelligence, that their judgments are not always wise, their thinking true, their sentences just—his world falls into panic desolation. The gods are fallen and all safety gone.

Jul 29, 2019

You can boast about anything if it's all you have. Maybe the less you have, the more you are required to boast.

Laura_X Feb 22, 2019

In March the soft rains continued, and each storm waited courteously until its predecessor sunk beneath the ground.

sclibrary_hlutke Jan 25, 2019

“All great and precious things are lonely.”
― John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Sep 05, 2016

"And she picked her words as one picks flowers in a mixed garden and took her time choosing."

Sep 05, 2016

“…Samuel rode lightly on top of a book and he balanced happily among ideas the way a man rides white rapids in a canoe. But Tom got into a book, crawled and groveled between the covers, tunneled like a mole among the thoughts, and came up with the book all over his face and hands.”

cals_Leah Oct 05, 2015

“But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—‘Thou mayest’— that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’—it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.”

Apr 16, 2013

"I have no bent toward gods. But I have a new love for that glittering instrument, the human soul. It is a lovely and unique thing in the universe."

Oct 06, 2012

If you or I must choose between two courses of thought or action, we should remember our dying and try so to live that our death brings no pleasure to the world.

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Mar 12, 2011

angrytoast thinks this title is suitable for 10 years and over


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lilybelle Jul 29, 2008

A classic. Multi-generational epic about love, siblings and the battle of good and evil. Set in Salinas, California it is a retelling of the Book of Genesis


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