A sweeping history of two families (the Trask and the Hamilton’s) with biblical parallels primarily set in the vast expanse of the Salinas Valley from the American Civil War to the First World War.

There are so many themes that this book touches on. Love, guilt and acceptance being those that first come to mind. And Steinbeck uses biblical references to tie all the various themes together. Mainly through the story of Cain and Abel. Cain whose jealousy of his brother Abel drives him to commit murder. 

I want to keep this post short. I’ve been battling a nasty cold for a few days 😷  so I think I will only focus on what I found interesting.

The characters. They were realistic. From Sam Hamilton’s wisdom, Lee’s realism, Caleb’s guilt, and Aron’s drive to be good embodied. I didn’t think any of their personalities was exaggerated or unrealistic. And I liked them all. Even Cathy. Cathy and her world of depravity. I think there were so many nuances in her that were quite fascinating. 

The idea of Timshel, or “Thou mayest. One person cannot be all good, or all bad. We have a choice. It’s pretty profound. Especially in how it relates to various characters. Specifically the ending, with Caleb Trask. He is his mother’s son. But he is also Adam’s son. And although not perfect, Adam is a good person at heart. So it’s Cal’s choice whether he chooses to do good or bad. There’s a freedom in that.

The paternity of the twins. Cathy in a moment of spite, hints that Adam may not be Aron and Cal’s father. Obviously we all knew that was a possibility. I think Charles is the father of one, and Adam the father of the other. It’s possible! They’re fraternal twins after all. Two separate eggs fertilized by two different sperm.

Ugh, my brain is a fevered mess. I can’t put my thoughts into words. 

Suffice it to say I loved loved loved this book. Definitely a new favorite. The descriptions alone. Wow. I think they do the Salinas Valley justice. I’ve been through there before and it was a beautiful green expanse of farmland. With modern cities/towns trickled about.​

Salinas Valley

I’m not the most religious person but I seriously enjoyed reading this novel. As my first Steinbeck, I would say this was a great introduction to his writing. I was expecting a long boring story, and it was absolutely nothing like that at all. It was insightful. If you haven’t read this book, I seriously recommend you give it a go. 


2018 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge.

Prompt: a book with alliteration in the title 

13 thoughts on “East of Eden by John Steinbeck

  1. Really agree that this is a stunning and profound book!! I loved the characters too- and Cathy was brilliantly drawn. I do think it’s possible that the twins had different fathers and Steinbeck certainly set that up as a possibility. Amazing review! Hope you get better soon!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m in two minds about this book. I enjoyed Of Mice and Men and it touched me but I despised Grapes of Wrath. But… a lot of people say that East of Eden is his best work. The idea of people not being all good or all bad but the choices that we make show us who we really are is an interesting concept, for sure. I think I’ll read it one day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hm, I haven’t read Grapes of Wrath but I have read Of Mice and Men. I can honestly say I enjoyed this book a lot better. The themes are just so profound and well- articulated. I would really recommend this book.

      Liked by 1 person

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