(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.