East of Eden (1952)

The strength of this novel lay in the detail given to the numerous characters and Steinbeck’s ability to paint them plainly. East of Eden is most obviously America’s biblical tale. Putting together a work that spans family generations pre-Civil War to World War I is no easy task. More shocking is that it’s done with three differing families: two East Coast “old” Americans and one Foreign “new” American. Steinbeck writes characters and family dynamics that are thoughtful and engaging. Like all things I’ve read by Steinbeck, East of Eden offers clever movement, surprises, and action.

While the book is often regarded for the family and social structures portrayed, I find myself overwhelmingly drawn to the individual developments and demons. As the individual journeys to new lands and meets different people, the dialogue and behaviors that ensue absolutely absorb readers. If that’s not enough, East of Eden also has the seal of approval from Oprah.

This quote from Steinbeck on East of Eden is also pretty badass:
“It has everything in it I have been able to learn about my craft or profession in all these years… I think everything else I have written has been, in a sense, practice for this.”

 

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