Title: East of Eden

Author: John Steinbeck

Type: Fiction

Page Count/Review Word Count: 572

Rating: 3/5

I’m a John Steinbeck fan, having read about half a dozen of his books now, but this one was probably my least favourite. In fact, I ended up moving it over to become a bedtime book, mainly because it’s a long old read with tiny print. I didn’t exactly not enjoy it, but I also didn’t find myself looking forward to picking it up, either.

One of the interesting things about Steinbeck is that I enjoy the way that he handles slice of life stuff, and this whole novel is packed with that. I think that might be the problem that I had here – there was too much slice of life stuff, and that kind of left me feeling indifferent. Not bored, but not far off it either.

But there’s some good stuff here, too. The characterisation was great and the plotting was pretty tight, though it wasn’t necessarily the kind of plot that I gravitate towards, and looking objectively at the book as a whole, it’s easy to be impressed by it. It’s a heck of an achievement to write something like this, which is why it’s so famous in the first place.

Then again, it’s also a heck of an achievement to translate the bible, and I’m not particularly keen on reading that either.

Another of the highlights of reading this was the fact that the language itself was so beautiful. It’s the kind of book where I could easily have tabbed out a bunch of stuff on different pages, purely because of how pretty it is. Steinbeck really was a master of the craft, and this book is further testament to that.

I guess the issue for me is that while there was plenty to admire there, there wasn’t much that actually moved me. If you compare this to Of Mice and Men, for example, then they’re two completely different kettles of fish. Of Mice and Men hits you in the gut with a punch of emotions, while East of Eden is more like fanning you slightly with a vague whiff of the things.

Perhaps a better analogy is to say that Of Mice and Men is like Let it Be, while East of Eden is like a lesser-known piano symphony. It engages you in the brain and not in the heart, and so you’re likely to get on well with it if you’re that kind of reader. But for me, it’s not really what I look for.

Going back to the specific edition that I had, it also wasn’t the most user-friendly. I would have preferred an edition that had an extra 100 pages to it but that had bigger font so that it was less of a headache. I think that if you’re going to go ahead and read this one, you’re going to want to pick up a decent edition that’s easy to read because that will add to your reading experience.

Don’t let any of this put you off, though. It’s definitely worth reading and it holds up well after all of these years, it’s just that it’s also a chunker with dense prose that isn’t the easiest thing to read. I guess it’s the kind of book that you read for a college course rather than for pleasure. And that’s all, folks.

Learn more about East of Eden.