East of Eden
by John Steinbeck, Fiction (Released September, 1952)
Bottom Line: Skip it.
Summary: The multi-generational story of the Trask family, focusing on two sets of brothers (Adam and Charles and twins Aron and Caleb) and spanning the mid-1800’s through the early 1900’s.
My Thoughts: I’ve been thinking about doing a “Revisiting the Classics” type recommendation list for books that might have been required reading in high school and are worth reading now. The problem is that I only actually remember about two of my required books from high school, so I’ve been asking friends if they have any “classics” they’ve read in later life and loved…which is how I decided to read East of Eden. I really liked the central story of the Trask family, but there is a lot of extra clutter in this book that detracts from the main plot (and gets you close to 700 pages!). According to Amazon, this book “echoes the biblical account of Cain and Abel” and there is a large section that analyzes the Cain and Abel story. I found it virtually unintelligible and thought about putting the book down after that section. The story of the Trask family is good enough to stand on its own without the meandering metaphor of the Cain and Abel story. There are also philosophical tangents at the beginning of each “Part” of the book that don’t really connect to the story, but are more just musings on life and are indecipherable at times. Now, on to the positive. The Trask family and its close associates are great characters containing good vs. evil and straightforward vs. manipulative dynamics. There are intriguing villains and people you want to root for. And, it’s just a good story. To be honest, I was on the fence about whether you should read or skip this one, but I decided to go with “Skip it” mostly because it’s so long and I really felt it’s length. With every other long book I’ve recommended, I enjoyed reading it so much that it made me forget how long it actually was…and I didn’t feel that way with East of Eden.
East of Eden