East of Eden ~ John Steinbeck (1952) 4.7 stars ✨
Considered one of the best modern classics, East of Eden is slightly biographical. Steinbeck manages to bring history to life by creating a story based on his childhood surroundings, the Salina Valleys.
John himself and members of his family are secondary characters. The rich descriptions allow us a glimpse into his childhood and maternal family ( his grandfather Samuel was such a gem!) nevertheless with a story that is fictional.
The inspiration of this novel, as the title implies, comes from The Book of Genesis and in particular the story of Cain and Abel. Despite the plethora of biblical references, the main theme in the book is freedom of choice. Mankind is not doomed to sin.
The Hebrew word, timshel—‘Thou mayest’— that gives us 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.’
East of Eden is fast paced, a page turner that leaves you wanting to know how it will all end. The themes of good and evil are constant throughout the novel and it emphasises what many people find it hard to understand. Bad people are more often than not, broken people. That doesn’t excuse them I hear you say, yes you’re right. Whilst some people are more resilient or some can manage to break the cycle, sadly many times without the love, guidance and support at that crucial age in life, these people let anger conquer them.
So better than Grapes of Wrath? Absolutely not. But it’s a book that will stay with me and a world I’d like to revisit. I loved the second part of the book! Lee is now one of my favourite characters of all time. My only slight trouble with this book is the ending which I won’t spoil.
Review by Doris.