Pros:A moving novel, 55 chapter masterpiece
Cons:Oprah had to approve it for people to go out and purchase it!
The Bottom Line: Buy it, it's a good read.
"A fantasia of history and myth... a strange and original work of art"
- New York Times Book Review
East of Eden is an awesome novel! Some say it is Steinbeck's best and that is huge praise considering the work that man Steinbeck put out (Grapes of Wrath, Of mice and men).
I read this book long before Oprah went on tv and made it part of her Book Club, thus, making it a bestseller. The fact that a novel published in 1952 became the bestseller in North America in the 21st century says a lot about Oprah's power and influence but little about the novel itself.
It is a story about two families that unexpectedly become connected with each other in the end. Steinbeck traces both families through three generations and uses certain family members to retell the Biblical story of Adam and of Cain and Abel, thus the allusion to Eden.
To me, beside the strong plot and Steinbeck's incredible storytelling skills, the best parts of the novel are when Steinbeck steps aside from the story and shares some of his philosophy with the readers.
Beginning of chapter 3, Steinbeck poses three questions to himself and answers them:
What do I believe in?
I believe that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world.
What must I fight for?
I would fight for the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected.
What must I fight against?
I must fight against any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual.
Beginning of ch. 34, Steinbeck ponders how to measure a man's life. He concludes that to effectively measure someone's life one must ask the following question:
Was his life good or was it evil?
Was he loved or was he hated?
In other words, is his death felt as a loss or does a kind of joy come of it?
These are just some of the highlights. Words cannot do this novel justice. Take Oprah's advice this time.
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