John Steinbeck – East of Eden

Title: East of Eden
Author: John Steinbeck
Year: 1952

To be honest, I can’t quite explain why I picked up John Steinbeck’s East of Eden. It’s very long (roughly 700 pages) and the story seem extremely boring when summarised; it’s a chronicle of two families in California and their intertwined destinies, spanning the time from the beginning of the 20th century to the end of the first world war, with heavy biblical references as well as autobiographical aspects. Sounds rather dull, don’t you think?

Well, it isn’t. Just as in The Pearl, Steinbeck makes this story come alive in a way I very rarely come across. I’ve spent some time trying to figure out what in particular makes this novel worthwhile, and eventually realised that even though all individual pieces are masterfully crafted, the characters are what really stands out. They are real people, almost hauntingly real and yet without being tainted by reality’s dreariness. I might forget most of the story in East of Eden, but i will not forget some of the characters.

Even though I have mostly good things to say and I found it difficult to leave the story once I was immersed in it, the book isn’t perfect. Indeed, the length is only one of the problems, another being the fact that not all parts of the long story are equally interesting. Some characters are truly fascinating, thus also making their parts interesting, but others are merely skillfully rendered, which isn’t enough to maintain my interest for such an extended time. Still, overall the book is more than worthwhile, worth a rating of four snails.

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