Tuesday Book Review: East of Eden by John Steinbeck

I love books. As a kid, I fantasized about Laura and Mary Ingalls suddenly turning up in the Boston suburbs. In college, I got a talking-to at work for reading on the job (I think it was Harry Potter). And now, I’m the girl who reads Dickens on the elliptical. Welcome to my nerdy life!

I’ve been meaning to start posting short book reviews here – not fifth-grade-style book reports, just my thoughts on what I’ve been reading lately. I have a loooong to-read list (surpassed only by my to-cook and to-bake lists!), and I love sharing book recommendations almost as much as recipes. So can I tell you about what I just finished reading?

It was John Steinbeck’s 1952 novel East of Eden, and I loved it. I was hesitant to pick up this book, even though it was rated highly on GoodReads, because I remember Steinbeck, frankly, as very boring. When I think back to Grapes of Wrath, I just remember dryness, associated as much with the writing as the setting. That’s probably unfair, and I bet if I picked up Grapes of Wrath or Of Mice and Men again, I’d enjoy them much more than I did in high school English class. Anyway, suffice it to say that I was pleasantly surprised by how un-dry East of Eden was.

This story, set at the turn of the century in California’s Salinas Valley, tells the story of two generations of the Trask family cursed to relive the fate of Cain and Able again and again. The characters are deep and fascinating, and I couldn’t help but be drawn to even the most unlikeable of them. Steinbeck’s prose is beautiful, and I loved the descriptions that really captured the texture of life in the Salinas Valley. The story is loosely based on the book of Genesis, but you don’t need to be familiar with the Bible to understand the plot or themes.

Disclaimer: I love long novels. I’m not sure how many pages this one was, because I read it on my Kindle, but it was not a quick read! That was lucky for me, because I had a long bus ride to and from Vegas last weekend :) And in general, I just love epic novels that build up a world you can get lost in. When I finally put one down, that world is gone, and I feel like a friendship has ended! If that’s your style too, I would definitely recommend East of Eden. And even if you’re just looking for a beautiful and entertaining story, I highly recommend picking this up.

What should I read next?

(Sidenote: Go vote if you haven’t yet!)

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