(Read 3rd November – 1st December 2015)
This is one of the best novels I have read in a very long time. It tells the story of the Salinas valley in California. The novel describes the life of two families, the Trasks and the Hamiltons. It spans three generations of both families, and runs from the end of the 1800s right up until the end of World War I. In this regard the novel is extremely ambitious in its scale and narrative.
The overlying theme of the novel is good vs. bad. Its main aim is to show that everybody is in a constant struggle between good and evil, and how when all is said and done, we will be judged by which path we chose. The two families fit into this theme, with the Hamiltons embodying goodness and happiness. In contrast to this, the Trasks are initially perceived as bad. However as the novel progresses this simplistic view of good vs. bad becomes more and more complex and a new optimistic theme emerges. This is that we are free to choose our own destiny and whether we are good or bad. Characters who appear to be descending the path of evil learn that it is entirely their own doing and desire to be so.
One of my favourite characters ever in a novel is featured in East of Eden. Samuel Hamilton is the father of the Hamilton children. He is a man who has never known any form of wealth in a material sense, but his wealth comes in the form of happiness and being content with what he has. He is a fascinating character, who is gentle and caring, and extremely wise. The Hamiltons live on a ranch that is on extremely bad land and therefore they have to work very hard for very little reward. Despite this, there whole family are joyful and friendly. He is a truly likeable character and so realistic. Steinbeck does an incredible job of creating a character that we can truly connect with and I found myself at various points wishing I could meet the character in real life.
Despite the length of the novel (reaching over 700 pages), it is surprisingly easy and quick to read. This is in part due to Steinbeck’s writing style. He never uses complicated language or difficult concepts and themes. Instead his style allows the reader to read huge sections of the novel at once without feeling exhausted or bogged down. The chapters flow brilliantly and the story is paced brilliantly, constantly forcing the reader to keep reading and reading!
Because of all this, I would highly recommend this book to everyone! It is definitely the best book I read this year and for quite some time. The scope and style of the novel will linger in the reader’s memory for some time. I can almost promise that readers will not be disappointed.
On what was to be one of the coldest nights of the year so far, the rugby did very little to warm the supporters at the RDS. The match was a really boring exhibition of lack of ambition or variation in terms of attacking rugby. The first half was a bit more exciting with both sides looking to release their backs, but this often resulted in both sides merely shifted the ball through the hands from side to side and then becoming isolated. Leinster wasted numerous opportunities in the Ulster 22, and a more clinical side should have been out of touch by half time considering the amount of possession and territory that they had. The sole try of the match came from a maul in the first half, which Croinin finished off. Worrying for Leinster supporters was Sexton’s kicking game; he missed the conversion following the try and also had some poor kicks out of hand. However, he did seem to look a lot sharper with the ball in hand, and managed a huge shift in defence. The second half was a really dour forty minutes of rugby. This is summed up by how there wasn’t a single point scored in that period.
There were some positives to take from the game for a Leinster supporter. Firstly, a win against Ulster should not be underestimated. In the past Ulster have regularly proved difficult for Leinster. On top of this, they were in a similar position to Leinster going in to the game, in that they desperately needed a win to rejuvenate their slow start to the season. It is usually a sign of a good team to grind out a result even when they are not playing well.
Another positive was the young players who featured. Van Der Flier, was in my opinion the man of the match, as he carried strongly and managed an almost impossible number of turnovers, right up until the end of the match. Ringrose once again proved a spark in attack and a rock in defence when he entered the fray late in the second half. These players showcased the extraordinary talent Leinster is able to produce through their academy and schools system. The only issue now is how Leinster will manage to keep hold of all these talented players.
The overwhelming feeling leaving the match was that the state of Irish rugby was really declining. We have been spoiled the last fifteen years by the success of Irish clubs, but from the evidence of the first two rounds of the European Cup, it seems that they are now no longer the force they used to be. I cannot imagine that Toulon, when they review the footage ahead of our double bill against them, will be too worried. Also concerning from a Leinster perspective is that this was pretty much their full strength side. Apart from one or two players, this was a team that could be similar to the one that appears against Toulon in two weeks time. That is a truly scary prospect considering their demolition of Clermont, away, over the weekend.