Michael Finocchiaro's Reviews > East of Eden

East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Rate this book
Clear rating

Steinbeck's classic East of Eden is a masterpiece and one of his finest books. It tells the history of Steinbeck's own family, the Hamiltons, and that of the Trask family. The epic is set in Steinbeck's native Salinas Valley in California and the beauty of the region is described in endless, passionate detail.
The characters are all beautifully drawn and the story is captivating.

I'll add some quotes here before returning the book to the library, but it was extremely pleasurable to read cover to cover.

For example, concerning faith: "The proofs that God does not exist are vert strong, but in lots of people they are not as strong as the feeling that He does." (P.69)
Concerning monsters: "I believe there are monsters born in the world to human parents...To a criminal, honesty is foolish. You must not forget that a monster is only a variation, and that to a monster the norm is monstrous." (P.71)
On progress: "in our time,, mass or collective production has entered our economics, our politics, and even our religion, so that some nations have substituted the idea collective for the idea of God. This in my time is the danger." (P.131)
On racism and dumbing down, Lee: "If I should go up to a lady or gentleman, for instance, and speak as I am doing now, I wouldn't be understood...Pidgen they expect, pidgin they'll listen to. But English from me they don't listen to, and so they don't understand it." (P.161)

Time flies: "The clock struck nine deliberate strokes and they were swallowed up." (P.449)
Frustration with time scheduling: "One thing late or early cab disturb everything around us, and the disturbance runs outward in bands like waves from a dropped stone in a quiet pool." (P.530)

East of Eden uses a plethora of Biblical analogies starting with that in the title referring to the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden - here Adam is expulsed from his home (though it was hardly a paradise) and thrust into the hell of a senseless war. Like veterans of other senseless wars, he comes back to a civilization that does not appreciate or understand what he lived through and he lives maladjusted for most of the rest of his life. His conflict with his brother Charles (Note: most of the major conflicts involve character names starting with an "A" (Adam, Aron, Abra) with character names starting with a "C" (Charles, Cal, Catherine)) is epic and sets many of the books major themes into play: rivalry over sex and power, jealousy, favoritism. There are many parallels throughout the book to Biblical stories and repetitive behaviors. This begs the question on whether anything is learned? I would say that despite the tragedy at the end, Lee does give us a sense of progress by taking the long view. It is significant that the last word in the book spoken by Adam is that which Lee and his Chinese scholars worked on together from Hebrew: Timshel "thou mayest".

Steinbeck was a masterful writer who beautifully evoked the Salinas Valley of his youth populating it with endearing and occasionally frightful characters that bring history alive. I would have to reread Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men, but East of Eden is certainly one of Steinbeck's best if not the very best.
239 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read East of Eden.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

October 1, 2016 – Shelved
October 1, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
November 21, 2016 – Shelved as: novels
May 1, 2017 –
page 14
May 2, 2017 – Started Reading
May 2, 2017 –
page 75
12.48% "Incredible!"
May 3, 2017 –
page 110
May 3, 2017 –
page 147
May 4, 2017 –
page 175
May 4, 2017 –
page 203
May 4, 2017 –
page 276
May 5, 2017 –
page 322
53.58% "Wow, I was breathless during the confrontation of Adam and "Kate" and blown away by how Steinbeck evolved the Lee character into a major moral force in the book. Awesome."
May 5, 2017 –
page 390
May 5, 2017 –
page 390
May 6, 2017 –
page 411
68.39% "Poor Tom and. Dessie :-/"
May 6, 2017 –
page 473
May 6, 2017 –
page 500
May 8, 2017 – Finished Reading
May 11, 2017 – Shelved as: pulitzer-fiction
May 11, 2017 – Shelved as: nobel-lit
May 11, 2017 – Shelved as: fiction
May 11, 2017 – Shelved as: classics
May 11, 2017 – Shelved as: american-20th-c
May 11, 2017 – Shelved as: favorites
May 11, 2017 – Shelved as: made-into-movie

Comments Showing 1-18 of 18 (18 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by William (new)

William I have not read this one. Thank you for the review!

Ammara Abid This book is exceptional and my all time favorite ♡

Praveen A wonderful Book :)

message 5: by G. (last edited May 07, 2017 05:26AM) (new)

G. Sounds like I need to get back to Steinbeck. :)

message 6: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Alexander This is one Steinbeck I've been saving up for a while.
My wife and I reread _Grapes_ which blew us away.

message 7: by Nocturnalux (new) - added it

Nocturnalux I was too young to full appreciate Grapes but it blew me away at the time. Some passages terified me and awed me.

message 8: by S.C. (new) - added it

S.C. Barrus I really need to read this book. It's been on my to read list for years.

Michael Finocchiaro It is worth it!

message 10: by M.J. (new)

M.J. Payne Lovely insightful review.

Michael Finocchiaro Thanks M J
Go away Nagia

message 12: by Monique (new)

Monique Great review! I need to re-read this.

message 13: by Beth (new) - rated it 3 stars

Beth Good review. I love this book, but I don't know if I'll have time for the group read, since I have 2 others going for the next 2 months.

Vfields Don't touch my happy! Excellent review.

Michael Finocchiaro Thanks Vfields!

message 16: by Jean (new)

Jean Steinbeck said that" East of Eden" was his best book. He had a great deal of difficulties writing it. He suffered a writer's block. He carved pencil box with scenes of East of Eden on it to try to break the block. He also suffered a severe case of depression during the time of the writer's block. He wrote a diary about writing the book in his attempt to overcome the writer's block. It is called "Journal of a Novel". It makes an interesting read particularly for writers.
Enjoyed your review.

message 17: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Alexander I've been saving this one .

Michael Finocchiaro Thanks Jean, I had no idea. Fascinating!

back to top