Dolors's Reviews > East of Eden

East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
18383778
's review

it was amazing
bookshelves: best-ever, read-in-2016, dost
Recommended for: Thou mayest

East of Eden is a uniquely fragmented hotchpotch. A fantastical fable, a retelling of the biblical tale of the original sin, a documented testimony of early settlers in the Salinas Valley through the perspective of three generations, a fictionalized biography of Steinbeck’s own grandfather, a subversive political text, an essay that blends modern philosophy with ancient wisdom.
It’s probable that Steinbeck’s ambitious scope and his need to reach universal meaning might encumber the narration with some faults.

The pace, the tone and the structure are uneven.
The book starts off in the first-person narrative, ostensibly Steinbeck himself, only to suddenly disappear and give way to an anonymous omniscient narrator.
Women appear opaque recipients of inherited constraint and duty. Gender is a question to be typified.
American history is treated as a casual backdrop without cohesive continuity. Racism is approached superficially and drawn to easy stereotyping.
Characters are not constricted by their roles. Some of them remain indecipherable. The causes that lead them to act a certain way are not fully acknowledged. It’s the moral dilemma and the consequences that matter, but it’s precisely the freedom Steinbeck grants to his characters that enables the allegorical quality of this tale to take its direct flight to the reader’s heart.

Truth is I couldn’t have cared less about the formal delivery of this book. My heart surrendered willingly and was bleeding from the first page.
Because it is Steinbeck’s aim that is faultless.
Because his ideals, which refuse to be pigeonholed by religion, double morale or self-complacency, and sincere passion shine through the naked, earnest prose that makes the stories of the Trasks and the Hamiltons a powerful parable that pulsates with unwavering faith in humanity.
Steinbeck reconstructs the architecture of the human spirit with all its weaknesses and cruelties, defies dogmatic predeterminism and elevates his characters’ struggles beyond any restrictive literary scheme. In placing the responsibility of the actions on human beings instead of an almighty presence, he is challenging the reader to call into question his own beliefs on fate, free will and guilt.
Hatred, envy, revenge, self-doubts and misguided fears haunt the heroes of this story, and they fight the dehumanizing effects of such visceral feelings with the only weapon Steinbeck approves of: love. Love in the widest sense of the word. Fraternal, filial, platonic, romantic. Much can be achieved if one is courageous enough to love even when rejection shatters wistful expectations. A childless man can have a daughter, genetic predisposition can be overpowered, instinctive meanness controlled, the gravest crime can be forgiven.

So many questions and no certain answers.
In all his wisdom, Steinbeck exposes his high principles and allows the reader to decide for himself. The possibility to choose, to pick this path or the other when we are at a crossroads is the most precious gift we are given along with life. We cannot choose to be made part of this world, of this bewildering place we seldom understand, but we can exert our goodwill and trust that others will do the same.
Love might cripple us, might make us fragile and defenseless, but it is the only way to reach the end of the journey without regret or remorse. Exile can’t befall on us if we dare to love. Paradise might not exist, but Steinbeck proves that loving others selflessly is the safe path to save us from ourselves.
176 likes · flag

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

Reading Progress

March 20, 2013 – Shelved
June 2, 2016 –
page 67
11.13% ""The direction of a big act will warp history, but probably all acts do the same in their degree, down to a stone stepped over in the path or a breath caught at sight of a pretty girl of a fingernail nicked in the garden soil.""
June 3, 2016 – Started Reading
June 5, 2016 –
page 134
22.26% ""And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual. This is what I am and what I am about.""
June 7, 2016 –
page 306
50.83% ""And I feel that a man is a very important thing- maybe more important than a star. This is not theology. I have no bent towards gods. But I have a new love for that glittering instrument, the human soul.""
June 11, 2016 – Finished Reading
June 12, 2016 –
page 602
100.0% ""We have only one story. All novels, all poetry, are built on the never-ending contest in ourselves of good and evil. And it occurs to me that evil must constantly respawn, while good, while virtue, is immortal. Vice has always a new fresh young face, while virtue is venerable as nothing else in the world is.""

Comments Showing 1-50 of 93 (93 new)


message 1: by Matthias (new)

Matthias Such beautiful take-aways Dolors! Thank you for sharing your message of love, distilled from a book that's been lingering just outside of to-read list. I now am more than eager to welcome it as it probably wondered what took me so long. I was waiting for your review, is all ;)


Arah-Lynda What an enlightening final paragraph Dolors. I think you have gone a long way in answering some of Steinbeck's questions. Exceptional review.


message 3: by Wanda (new)

Wanda Lovely review.


message 4: by Soycd (new) - added it

Soycd Thank you for your amazing review Dolors!


message 5: by Cristina (new) - added it

Cristina T'ha apassionat el llibre i la teva passió s'ha apoderat també de la review!!!!!!! Congrats!!!!!!!!!!!! I... love forever!!!!!!!!


message 6: by Patrick (new)

Patrick Wonderful review of a classic work


message 7: by Ritwik (new) - added it

Ritwik From whatever little I have read of him (Of mice and men) I find myself nodding to a particular line in this glorious review-

Steinbeck reconstructs the architecture of the human spirit with all its weaknesses and cruelties, defies dogmatic predeterminism and elevates his characters’ struggles beyond any restrictive literary scheme.

I somehow see this in George and Lennie's relationship. Beautiful review, Dolors!


Steven Godin Amazing book!, if only I had more time would read it again and again, great review Dolors.


message 9: by Jr (new)

Jr Bacdayan I cannot help but be carried by the beautiful stream of your words. Such a stirring and astute review, Dolors! The last sentence took my breath away. I have to yet read this masterpiece, but this review has just made its reading much more urgent. I can't wait to tackle it when that day comes. Thank you, my friend.


message 10: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa "My heart surrendered willingly and was bleeding from the first page" - you could not have expressed better the feeling I had when reading this book ante GR times. I agree with you fully - there might be technical and ethical fault lines in Steinbeck's work, but that story - that story ...
Thank you for this review, Dolors!


Dolors Matthias wrote: "Such beautiful take-aways Dolors! Thank you for sharing your message of love, distilled from a book that's been lingering just outside of to-read list. I now am more than eager to welcome it as it ..."

Heh, that's a truly kind (and flattering) thing to say, Matthias. If it offers you some consolation, I will admit to having waited many months till I pulled this book off my shelves, which is inexplicable, given my love for all the Steinbecks I have read so far...
This one, though, next to Cannery Row, is one of my favorites, and so I will be expectant of your impression when and if you finally get to it in the future.


Dolors Arah-Lynda wrote: "What an enlightening final paragraph Dolors. I think you have gone a long way in answering some of Steinbeck's questions. Exceptional review."

I am really glad that my intake of this book resonated with yours Arah-Lynda, particularly so seeing that you recently read this epic yourself. I was afraid of sounding too sentimental in portraying Steinbeck's all-embracing vision of humanity, and I am relieved that my enthusiasm shone through my probably inadequate (and oh, surely repetitive) final paragraph, but I couldn't help myself, I loved the book too much! ;P


Dolors Wanda wrote: "Lovely review."

Many thanks for reading and the kind words, Wanda.


Dolors Soycd wrote: "Thank you for your amazing review Dolors!"

Thanks a bunch, Soycd.
Steinbeck captivated me and I expect to be reading more of his works before the year ends...


Dolors Cristina wrote: "T'ha apassionat el llibre i la teva passió s'ha apoderat també de la review!!!!!!! Congrats!!!!!!!!!!!! I... love forever!!!!!!!!"

Apassionada és la paraula exacta, Cris.
Exaltada. Enamorada. Captivada. Under the spell...
El que et deia dels escriptors americans... n'hi ha que valen la pena, encara que siguin homes! ;P
Gràcies per l'abraçada, per l'entusiasme i l'energia positiva del teu comentari. Muacks!


Dolors Patrick wrote: "Wonderful review of a classic work"

Glad you enjoyed it, Patrick.
And glad that this one will defy the passage of time.


message 17: by Dolors (last edited Sep 12, 2016 11:48AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dolors Ritwik wrote: "From whatever little I have read of him (Of mice and men) I find myself nodding to a particular line in this glorious review-

Steinbeck reconstructs the architecture of the human spirit with all i..."


I couldn't have said it better, Ritwik. You nail it with your direct comparison to that moving couple. Of mice and men talks about the injustice that comes from misunderstanding our fears and of social oppression, but it also talks about unconditional love.
If you are in the mood for a shorter but equally powerful novella than "East of Eden", and seeing that you liked "Of mice and men", I highly recommend Cannery Row, I think you won't be disappointed! Many thanks for your lovely comment.


message 18: by Dolors (last edited Sep 12, 2016 11:50AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dolors Steven wrote: "Amazing book!, if only I had more time would read it again and again, great review Dolors."

So you read this one this year! What a ride, right?
Steinbeck pulled at all my heartstrings and made me sing, Steven.
I might want to re-read this one in the future as well, but I plan on getting to some of his shorter stories beforehand.


message 19: by Rowena (new) - added it

Rowena Lovely review, Dolors! I've only read 2 Steinbecks, this is a reminder for me to read more:)


Dolors Jr wrote: "I cannot help but be carried by the beautiful stream of your words. Such a stirring and astute review, Dolors! The last sentence took my breath away. I have to yet read this masterpiece, but this r..."

Thanks to you for grading me on the curve of my own exaltations, Jr. You are always so kind and such a great buddy to share bookish thoughts with.
Well, if you believe my meagre conclusion was touching, wait until you read Steinbeck, Jr, he will test your nerves but also give you the most tender moments you can expect from such a fast-paced plot.
Writing such an ambitious novel is no easy feat and I admire Steinbeck's reasons to do so, one can extract so much from this parable that it's easy to feel overwhelmed, as I was when I turned the last page...


Dolors Lisa wrote: ""My heart surrendered willingly and was bleeding from the first page" - you could not have expressed better the feeling I had when reading this book ante GR times. I agree with you fully - there mi..."

And in therein lies the magic of Steinbeck's works, don't you think, Lisa? He has the ability to put his ideals into parables that should move even the most impassive reader, and his characters, as allegoric and sketched as the ones in this book might be, end up being part of our literary universe for good.
I see myself reading and re-reading Steinbeck many years from now, particularly when my faith in humanity wobbles in front of the depressing panorama that surrounds us everywhere.
Thanks for stopping by to read and for your lovely comment, Lisa!


Dolors Rowena wrote: "Lovely review, Dolors! I've only read 2 Steinbecks, this is a reminder for me to read more:)"

Please do, Rowena! I think you will be captivated by Steinbeck's call to accept one's flaws and embrace them as we do those of others.


message 23: by Florencia (new) - added it

Florencia What happens when one can't find the proper words to express admiration toward a beautifully crafted review – which is more like an accurate portrayal of our very own existence, sketched by Empathy and skilfully painted by Experience, rather than an analysis of a book – and also gratitude, for soothing the uneasiness of one reader who has found more certain answers on this marvelous page than on any other place?
This will be my first Steinbeck. Your magnificent review has decided for me, D. And I agree. I absolutely agree. :)


Jacob Overmark Thx Dolors. I think you capture all the love that Steinbeck put in the novel and share it in the most never-give-up-on-the-world affectionately way :-)


message 25: by Fionnuala (new)

Fionnuala Great to be reminded so poignantly of a much-loved book, Dolors.


message 26: by Carol (new)

Carol Sold. No doubt the right thing to do is to print and frame this review and hang it on a prominent wall in my home as a reminder.


Bianca Spendid review. I hope I get to re-read it, but given the amount of books I want to read, it's unlikely.


message 28: by Joe (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joe Valdez Dolors wrote: "Hatred, envy, revenge, self-doubts and misguided fears haunt the heroes of this story, and they fight the dehumanizing effects of such visceral feelings with the only weapon Steinbeck approves of: love. Love in the widest sense of the word. "

Passionate and exciting review of one of my favorite novels, Dolors, if not my most favorite. I feel like I should smoke a cigarette now. Your book reports are lush with feelings of beauty.


Henry Avila Well done again, Dolors, you have a great understanding of Steinbeck, and his motive, for writing this great fable...


message 30: by Edward (last edited Sep 12, 2016 09:43PM) (new) - added it

Edward Wonderful, Dolors. This is a book I've avoided a bit because of its length, and the fact that it receives quite mixed reviews - I always hear of people who really can't stand the book. Your review points out some of the reasons that may turn people against it, which reassures me that it is probably worth taking the time to read. I suppose one isn't awarded a Nobel prize for nothing.


Dolors Florencia wrote: "What happens when one can't find the proper words to express admiration toward a beautifully crafted review – which is more like an accurate portrayal of our very own existence, sketched by Empathy..."

If you could only see me, Flo... I am beaming! :)))
Of all the answers in response to my raving, yours exceeds any expectation. Thank you. Truth is (view spoiler) whenever I write about Steinbeck, I have the feeling I repeat myself, but maybe it's just evidence of how consistent and unfailing his principles were. Surely the man had many flaws, like his books, but sometimes intention and content transcends layout, and oh my, the light that emanates from this classic is bliding in its beauty. I hope that you will warm up to Steinbeck's moving tale of love and hardship, dear Flo!


Dolors Jacob wrote: "Thx Dolors. I think you capture all the love that Steinbeck put in the novel and share it in the most never-give-up-on-the-world affectionately way :-)"

Precisely my message Jacob, as sugary as it may sound, I fell totally for it... I find Steinbeck is really convincing! ;P


Dolors Fionnuala wrote: "Great to be reminded so poignantly of a much-loved book, Dolors."

Glad you think so Fionnuala. Certain books are loved for what they represent rather than for their literary value...


message 34: by Frances (new) - added it

Frances The number of pages of this book kind-of scares me???


Dolors Carol wrote: "Sold. No doubt the right thing to do is to print and frame this review and hang it on a prominent wall in my home as a reminder."

Hah Carol, wait until you read Steinbeck's tale, and then you'll want to print certain passages and really put them on your wall. Thanks for your lovely comment, it made my day! :)


Dolors Bianca wrote: "Spendid review. I hope I get to re-read it, but given the amount of books I want to read, it's unlikely."

Thanks, Bianca. Oh yes, the eternal dilemma. Re-read books we loved or discover potential new ones... Finding that balance requires time and experience, but I surely envision myself wanting to re-read this one in the future, so who knows, we might cross paths some day!


Dolors Joe wrote: "Dolors wrote: "Hatred, envy, revenge, self-doubts and misguided fears haunt the heroes of this story, and they fight the dehumanizing effects of such visceral feelings with the only weapon Steinbec..."

Haha Joe, isn't that the best feeling? Finding a voice that speaks for you, a voice that even sees through you. Steinbeck does that to me again and again, that's why he is steadily becoming one of my favorite authors as well. I am getting ready to read Sweet Thursday next, and I can't wait to meet again with his humanistic prose...
Thanks for your lovely, incredibly kind comment.


Dolors Henry wrote: "Well done again, Dolors, you have a great understanding of Steinbeck, and his motive, for writing this great fable..."

Thanks to you for reading and for your kind words, Henry. I will be reading Sweet Thursday next, and it was you who pointed it out after I finished (and loved) Cannery Row. So a double thank you!


Dolors Edward wrote: "Wonderful, Dolors. This is a book I've avoided a bit because of its length, and the fact that it receives quite mixed reviews - I always hear of people who really can't stand the book. Your review ..."

I hope I didn't set the bar of your expectations too high, Edward. The book has many flaws in its delivery. It's also quite fast-paced and full of action, but certain digressive passages, some of which even amount to short chapters (sort of like "Time passes" in "To the lighthouse"), more made up for the less polished edges of the story. I will be looking forward to your impression on this classic if you ever decide to give it a try. Thanks for your kind comment.


Dolors Frances wrote: "The number of pages of this book kind-of scares me???"

Just give it a try and you'll see them rush, Frances.
It's a fast paced book, full of action that will keep you glued, reading till the late hours....


message 41: by Seemita (new) - added it

Seemita And here it is! The earthy, enchanting, baring prose of Steinbeck set on the inspiring, soothing, musical notes of Dolors! Thank you for your beauteous ode, my dear; Steinbeck's intent, indeed, overpowers his narrative levers and assumptions. His story-telling leaves a certain vaccum behind which appears like the most complete compartment inside us. And this work looks to have the same, fleeting-fulfilling equation in order. A delight to read this sunny afternoon :)


Markus Thanks for this fine review Dolors, I will want to place this book nearer to the top of my list,


message 43: by Glenn (new)

Glenn Russell Thanks for your fine review, Dolors. I was reflecting on what you noted about the shift to anonymous omniscient narrator, trying to think if I ever encountered an omniscient narrator that wasn't anonymous. What I come up with is an old-time storyteller, someone narrating a tale where they occasionally slip in their name or their feelings and ideas about the story. What has been your experience, may I ask?


Cheryl What a powerful thrill of a ride, Dolors. This line had me captivated for a few minutes: "Much can be achieved if one is courageous enough to love even when rejection shatters wistful expectations". I'm awed that your trust and love for Steinbeck leads you to be enveloped by his thematic overhaul because you've brought us this beautiful mesh of imaginary and real world. I think I have this one in my library and one day soon, I'll open it and hope to find the solace and answers you've found.


Deyanne "So many questions and no certain answers"...your powerful and insightful review created in me a desire to reread this classic. I can honestly say that I didn't first take away from this novel all of the probing insights that you find there. I wonder if even now, I could bring your wisdom to my own reading. I am in awe of your skills and appreciative of your sharing. I wonder if thirty years will add more dimension to a reread. This is now on my list because of you.


Henry Avila Kismet... I am reading The Valley of Horses now.


Jacob Overmark Dolors wrote: "Jacob wrote: "Thx Dolors. I think you capture all the love that Steinbeck put in the novel and share it in the most never-give-up-on-the-world affectionately way :-)"

Precisely my message Jacob, a..."


A little sugar makes the world go round, don´t you think? Stepping into the Steinbeck grotto where you are presented to the universal choices between good and evil take some strength. Reflecting on the choices, maybe even more and there is no harm in sweetening the truth a bit :-)


Dolors Seemita wrote: "And here it is! The earthy, enchanting, baring prose of Steinbeck set on the inspiring, soothing, musical notes of Dolors! Thank you for your beauteous ode, my dear; Steinbeck's intent, indeed, ove..."

You nail it Simi, I actually mentioned Steinbeck's consistence in transmitting his humanistic views in all the works I've read by him so far in a comment above, and as you say, this is precisely what makes him such a special writer, for he connects in multiple levels to the "empty" compartments of our beings and fills them with their faith in the goodness of people.
As usual, your response flows in poetic streams and reaches my shores at the moment when the sun kisses the horizon in red-orange streaks before night falls... Perfect timing to read you, dear Simi! :)


Dolors Markus wrote: "Thanks for this fine review Dolors, I will want to place this book nearer to the top of my list,"

Glad to hear so, Markus! Knowing of your appreciation for great classics I believe this American epic would sit well with your literary tastes...


Dolors Glenn wrote: "Thanks for your fine review, Dolors. I was reflecting on what you noted about the shift to anonymous omniscient narrator, trying to think if I ever encountered an omniscient narrator that wasn't an..."

Good question, Gleen. The narrator that first came to my mind is Saleem Sinai in Midnight's Children. Rushdie uses a non-linear storyline that allows the different selves of the protagonist to tell his own story from the present time, using the third person narrator (and sometimes even different nicknames that make it all a tad bit confusing at first), shifting backwards and forwards, and anticipating events the reader needs to put together like a jigsaw puzzle. In this case, the omniscient narrator remains anonymous only for a while until you realize that both protagonist and narrator are the same person.
The effect this technique had in me is that of feeling inside the narrator's head and following his stream of thought unhindered, almost as if his subconscious fused with mine...


« previous 1
back to top