Here is my book review of the book East of Eden by John Steinbeck. I wrote an absurdly long post about my thought process while buying and reading this book, which you can read here. And trust me, when I say absurdly long, I mean it: For god’s sake, I’ve written shorter papers for college! Click that link at your own risk. The author is not responsible for any mental trauma, headaches or bleeding eyes caused by her post. (Hell, I’m going to be a lawyer and I can never be too careful.)
Let’s get down to this book, shall we? It’s a masterpiece. The story left me overwhelmed, but in a subtle way. I can’t quite put my finger on what it was that left me with that immense feeling of contentment and fondness.
I generally love epic novels and family sagas. Perhaps that was why I loved it so much? I adored a lot of the characters in this book; in fact I wouldn’t be overshooting if I said I loved all of them as characters and most of them as people as well. I loved the masterful character development which caused me to root for one character that I previously disliked, as well as the opposite, leaving me wondering when it was that this person changed quite so much! I feel like this mirrors real life to a large extent, don’t you? I can’t elaborate, but there was one other instance where I found this skilful character development without actually altering the person’s basic qualities, but merely showing us how circumstances can cause us to underplay our inherent goodness and become the persons we ultimately end up becoming. The other instance was with the character of Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights. He has such a complex persona, and the characters in this book are the same.
The narrative and story were also excellent, with the element of intrigue, romance, suspense, etc. which don’t generally don’t appear in a novel of this genre. There was a fair amount of humour and wit in the stories of the two families that form the primary focus of this story.
This novel is also theologically interesting, with characters drinking alcohol and trying to understand Christianity, the religion that ruled their lives and lifestyles, needless of whether they are Christians themselves. One person stated that this wife does not believe that the Bible ought to be understood, but just read. The rationalist in me was repulsed by this idea, but it occurred to me what strength, what comfort this sort of view to religion provides, and how, if it is not accompanied by judgment or imposition of one’s views on other persons, it’s actually okay to have that sort of faith.
Another theme that runs throughout the book is the question of nature versus nurture specifically, and the question of choice in the type of person you want to be, in general as well. It’s a very moralistic work in that sense, but it isn’t preachy or didactic because this theme is weaved into the narrative quite well.
I am not going to deny that some of the dialogue was strained, and some of the circumstances seemed to be specially introduced to enable intelligent discussions between unlikely characters. However, this is forgivable because the characters are charming, and the discussions really were intelligent and interesting. Overall, I was able to overlook the faults of this book completely because it impressed me with… something. I still can’t put my finger on quite what it is! I recommend this book to everyone, especially because I can’t think of a demographic to whom it may not appeal.
Tell me what you thought of this book, if you’ve read it, especially if you disagree with me. 🙂