An epic masterpiece from an iconic author
John Steinbeck is regarded as one of the greatest American authors and East of Eden is his masterpiece work. This book is an epic as it follows a family through 3 generations through the highs and lows of life. Steinbeck has a way of painting the picture in your mind, not only of the rich scenery but also the subtle mannerisms and depth in the characters. This is a heavy book that covers heavy topics.
“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.”John Steinbeck (source here)
East of Eden contains a cyclical story arc that also parallels with the story of Cain and Abel in the book of Genesis. Certain themes and ideas are played out in the book, often in graphic detail. The major themes are:
- Human depravity
- The search for love and acceptance
- The battle of good and evil
The author pulls no punches as he explores the depths of depravity, especially through the character Cathy Ames (possibly the greatest villain of all time). The main characters struggle to find family love and acceptance, while at times giving in to their worst impulses.
While I greatly appreciate the skill and genius it took to compose this masterpiece, it is way too dark for me. The detail in the scenery is beautiful, but the detail of the darkness is overwhelming (for me at least). Samuel Hamilton is my favorite character and there is a lot in this book that is powerful. It really is an excellent novel overall, but the content may be too much for some. I also want to point out a trigger warning of self-harm and suicide in this book.