East of Eden is a great piece of literature and one of my favorite books. First I’ll tell you one of the reasons why-five years ago I went online to Oprah’s Book Club and there I met some ladies in a book club called The Page Turners. We’ve been together since then and grown into not only a great book club, but a family. East of Eden is the book that brought us together so for our 5th anniversary we decided to read it again. The book is still just as brilliant as it was then and I find in reading it again I’m finding a lot of things that I missed the first time around.
One of my favorite parts of the book comes at the beginning, ‘The Salinas Valley is in Northern California. It is a long narrow swale between two ranges of mountains, and the Salinas River winds and twists up the center until it falls at last into Monteray Bay’…then it goes on to describe the area even more. I love the descriptiveness of this piece, the way it sets you off knowing where you are so you can picture it in your mind so clearly.
The story itself introduces us to the Hamiltons and the Trasks. We learn about Samuel and his family-Samuel has to be one of my favorite characters. Then we go on to the relationship between Adam and Charles. Adam being the good son, Charles the bad-this story is often compared with Cain and Abel in the Bible. Charles was always very jealous of Adam believing that their father loved him more. In time Adam goes to war, their father dies, and the boys stay on at the farm.
Into this picture comes Cathy who has been evil since birth. She gets beaten badly and ends up on the Trask boy’s doorstep. Adam falls in love, takes care of her and then marries her. Little does he know that she doesn’t love him and never did.
After they marry, they move to Salinas and Cathy has twin boys-Cal and Aron and then she takes off but not before shooting Adam because he doesn’t want her to leave. She had never intended on wasting her life on a farm, instead she heads into Salinas and ends up running a whorehouse. I always found it odd that she stayed so close to home-making it so much easier to be found out one day.
From there the story progresses on alternating between Adam, the boys, and Cathy. There is a rivalry between Cal and Aron as was between Charles and Adam because Cal also believes his father loves Aron more than him. Another favorite character in the book for me is Lee-Adams house man. He is funny and brilliant and adds a flair to the story with his ways of doing things. The book eventually moves on to a fairly dramatic ending.
This book is so full that one could write about many things but for those who have never read the book, they really should. I don’t want to put too much in this review and spoil it for someone who may pick it up to read. It’s a great novel. John Steinbeck brings all these characters alive in both your heart and mind. It’s as though you’re living in the valley with them and you just don’t want the story to end. His descriptions of the area and the time period are fantastic. East of Eden is a great read and I would recommend it to everyone!
Also, read on to the next post to get a glimpse of the Salinas Valley as it is today…