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 East of Eden by John Steinbeck

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PostSubject: East of Eden by John Steinbeck   Sat Sep 17, 2011 12:12 am

This is, simply, one of the best novels I have read in a long time. Even with its shortcomings.

The novel is, essentially, a retelling of the Book of Genesis as it pertains to Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel. It is also, in a minor way, a semi-autobiographical account of the people Steinbeck knew in his childhood years. The main character is, appropriately enough, named Adam, and we see his growth as a child under a braggadocios, domineering father who forces him into the military (the book is set late 19th century-early 20th century in the US), where he sees battle against Native American tribes in the West. After several years he leaves the army, learns his father has died, and moves in with his brother. It is here that he meets Cathy Ames, his "Eve", who turns into one of the most fascinating characters of the book. She is cold, ruthless, and manipulating, a femme fatale to put other femme fatales to shame. Before she leaves him she bears Adam twin sons, Aron and Cal (see how the "A" and "C" match that of "A"bel and "C"ain? Steinbeck is not trying to be subtle here), with Aron the bright, shining, popular one and Cal the dark, secretive, scheming one. They both vie for their father's approval and love.

Yet this is not just a simple retread of old Bible stories. The characters are fully realized, and every emotion is spot-on and honest. You can see the tragedies coming, but how they are arrived at are stunning. And Steinbeck's writing has flashes of dark, edgy humor, which I was not expecting.

The only thing that really bothered me is that Steinbeck occasionally switches from third-person narrative to first-person (when he is portraying himself). I did not like that, but the book's other strengths allowed me to overlook this relatively minor irritation. Overall, I very much recommend this book.

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PostSubject: Re: East of Eden by John Steinbeck   Sat Sep 17, 2011 8:44 pm

Sounds very interesting, I like retellings of other stories. I read Of Mice and Men for my GCSE; I agree that Steinbeck has a very dark sense of humor. It is one of the things I liked best about that novel. I'll certainly be adding this book to my 'to read' list. I also agree about the narrative shift. I really dislike that in a novel, unless of course it is an epistolary novel and even then, it wears thin after a while.

Thanks for the review
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PostSubject: Re: East of Eden by John Steinbeck   Tue Oct 25, 2011 9:56 pm

I have thought of reading Steinbeck's classic, The Grapes of Wrath; have you read it, and would you recommend it? I probably wouldn't get to that for a while, though, as I think I'd want to first read a bit of Hemingway. And all of this after I read Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and maybe A Game of Thrones.
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PostSubject: Re: East of Eden by John Steinbeck   Thu Oct 27, 2011 8:21 pm

I haven't read "Grapes of Wrath" yet. So far, "East of Eden" is my only Steinbeck novel. This will be rectified.

As far as Hemingway goes, the only work of his I read is "For Whom the Bell Tolls", which was a good novel, but not quite as good as Steinbeck.

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PostSubject: Re: East of Eden by John Steinbeck   Fri Oct 28, 2011 8:02 am

The only John Steinbeck novel I have read is Of Mice and Men. I really liked it, and Steinbeck's writing style is quality.

I've watched a movie adaptation of East of Eden (I watched it for James Dean), and it's interesting to see that from your review, they completely cut off the Adam and Eve arc of the book. In the movie, it solely focuses on Cal (played by Dean, of course) and his desire to see his birth mother while vying for his father's approval. I really should give the book a chance. I can say that I agree with your perception of Cathy Ames, her character easily stood out in the movie version as well.
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PostSubject: Re: East of Eden by John Steinbeck   Fri Oct 28, 2011 8:30 pm

Louisa wrote:
The only John Steinbeck novel I have read is Of Mice and Men. I really liked it, and Steinbeck's writing style is quality.

I've watched a movie adaptation of East of Eden (I watched it for James Dean), and it's interesting to see that from your review, they completely cut off the Adam and Eve arc of the book. In the movie, it solely focuses on Cal (played by Dean, of course) and his desire to see his birth mother while vying for his father's approval. I really should give the book a chance. I can say that I agree with your perception of Cathy Ames, her character easily stood out in the movie version as well.

Louisa!!!!!!!! It's great to see you again!!!!! Very Happy

Anyway, I saw some of the movie version of "East of Eden". It disregards nearly the entire first half of the book, which surprised me a bit. Ah, Hollywood... Rolling Eyes

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