Thursday, July 31, 2008

East of Eden

Genius. This book is genius! It's solid classic material minus the boring that normally comes with classics. It has an epic quality to it and it's not for the lazy, but it is totally worth the extra effort. I was leery in the beginning as I have a rocky relationship with books that fall into the classics category, but this book did not disappoint.

I don't often go in for the "slice of life" type books, I like a solid plot, but the story of the Hamilton and Trask families totally sucked me in. It tells the story of these two families so effectively that you almost feel you know them. I loved Samuel and Lee and Adam, and Cathy actually gave me the willies just reading about her. Every time I saw that a chapter was going to be about her, I got the sort of creeped out excited you get about a haunted house. The sorrow in the stories is so profound and the themes of good and evil are carried out in a way that feels a bit like reading philosophy, but not like when you took Philosophy 101 in college and had to read "Critical Thinking, 8th edition" and fell asleep at your study carrel in the library only to wake yourself up by moaning in that weird way that sometimes happens.

My only complaint about the book was just that I thought John Steinbeck inserting himself into the book as an actual character was a little weird. It could have been done in a more Alfred Hitchocky sort of way, which would have been cool, but instead he was sort of the narrator, but only once every 50 chapters or so. It was kind of weird. Not distracting or even bad weird, but weird all the same.

Okay, back to the praise. It was crafty how Steinbeck would introduce new characters throughout the book. Sometimes, like in the case of Joe, you don't meet until you're 500 pages in, or Abra who you don't meet until 300 pages or so, but I was instantly invested in their stories. His writing style is hard to pin point; it can be so simplistic in a way, but deceptively so. Every once in a while I would get lazy in my reading and realize that I must have missed something without even noticing. There were quite a few times I had to go back and read a paragraph or sometimes a whole page again, just to see what tiny little thing I missed that rendered the paragraph on the next page confusing. Sometimes it was in the way that a sentence was phrased that conveyed a hidden meaning that if you read too quickly, was missed entirely. Or maybe I'm just a sloppy reader. Either way, I loved it. Please go read it. It's a time commitment (602 pages) but you should do it anyways. You can thank me later.

6 comments:

cranky rae said...

I'm so relieved you loved it: it's probably the best book I've ever read, and I think I would have had to totally freak out on you if you didn't love it, too.

mari said...

One of the books I will have to add to my must-read list. I read Cannery Row years ago. The only Steinbeck novel I have read.

Rachel said...

This encourages me to pick it up. It's been sitting on myshelf for at least a year.

trish said...

Great review! This book is one of my all time favorites. :-)

Amanda said...

I read this a few years ago and loved it as well. I'm thinking it's definitely one I'll have to revisit and oddly makes me want to read more Steinbeck...which sounded like the most boring thing back when I was in high school.

Bybee said...

East of Eden is my very favorite Steinbeck. Cathy is the devil...did you notice those stubby feet? = cloven hooves!