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East of Eden (Oprah's Book Club) Paperback – Deckle Edge, Jun 18 2003

341 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Centennial Edition edition (June 18 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142004235
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142004234
  • Product Dimensions: 14.3 x 3.8 x 21.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 726 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (341 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,639 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"A novel planned on the grandest possible scale...One of those occasions when a writer has aimed high and then summoned every ounce of energy, talent, seriousness, and passion of which he was capable...It is an entirely interesting and impressive book."
The New York Herald Tribune

"A fantasia and myth...a strange and original work of art."
The New York Times Book Review

"A moving, crying pageant with wilderness strengths."
—Carl Sandburg

"When the book club ended a year ago, I said I would bring it back when I found the book that was moving…and this is a great one. I read it for myself for the first time and then I had some friends read it. And we think it might be the best novel we've ever read!"
—Oprah Winfrey

About the Author

John Steinbeck, born in Salinas, California, in 1902, grew up in a fertile agricultural valley, about twenty-five miles from the Pacific Coast. Both the valley and the coast would serve as settings for some of his best fiction. In 1919 he went to Stanford University, where he intermittently enrolled in literature and writing courses until he left in 1925 without taking a degree. During the next five years he supported himself as a laborer and journalist in New York City, all the time working on his first novel, Cup of Gold (1929).

After marriage and a move to Pacific Grove, he published two California books, The Pastures of Heaven (1932) and To a God Unknown (1933), and worked on short stories later collected in The Long Valley (1938). Popular success and financial security came only with Tortilla Flat (1935), stories about Monterey’s paisanos. A ceaseless experimenter throughout his career, Steinbeck changed courses regularly. Three powerful novels of the late 1930s focused on the California laboring class: In Dubious Battle (1936), Of Mice and Men (1937), and the book considered by many his finest, The Grapes of Wrath (1939). The Grapes of Wrath won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in 1939.

Early in the 1940s, Steinbeck became a filmmaker with The Forgotten Village (1941) and a serious student of marine biology with Sea of Cortez (1941). He devoted his services to the war, writing Bombs Away (1942) and the controversial play-novelette The Moon is Down (1942). Cannery Row (1945), The Wayward Bus (1948), another experimental drama, Burning Bright (1950), and The Log from the Sea of Cortez (1951) preceded publication of the monumental East of Eden (1952), an ambitious saga of the Salinas Valley and his own family’s history.

The last decades of his life were spent in New York City and Sag Harbor with his third wife, with whom he traveled widely. Later books include Sweet Thursday (1954), The Short Reign of Pippin IV: A Fabrication (1957), Once There Was a War (1958), The Winter of Our Discontent (1961), Travels with Charley in Search of America (1962), America and Americans (1966), and the posthumously published Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters (1969), Viva Zapata! (1975), The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights (1976), and Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath (1989).

Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962, and, in 1964, he was presented with the United States Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Steinbeck died in New York in 1968. Today, more than thirty years after his death, he remains one of America's greatest writers and cultural figures.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Mendelsohn on Feb. 24 2009
Format: Paperback
An all time fave. Why? Because there is next to no ego in the last book John Steinbeck ever wrote. You finish "East of Eden" and you remember the characters not the writer. You remember Lee, who is so selfless and good and wise; you remember the two sets of brothers, Adam and Charles, and Cal and Aron; and with a series of spinal shudders you find you cannot forget Cathy (or Catherine) who has to go down as one of the most sinister - and interesting - characters in all fiction.

No tricks, no overly clever plot-twists or wordplays, this is just a straight-ahead, old-fashioned, fascinating story about the greatest biblical theme of them all: people's struggle with good and evil. But that's not all. It's so much more than that. [Ok, nerdy confession time:] I drew up a list of all the great themes "East of Eden" covers but have since scrapped it because Steinbeck does precisely that in the book's appropriately humble epigraph, delivered as a simple letter to a dear friend:

"Dear Pat,
You came upon me carving some kind of little figure out of wood and you said, 'Why don't you make something for me?'
I asked you what you wanted, and you said, 'A box.'
'What for?'
'To put things in.'
'What things?'
'Whatever you have,' you said.
Well, here's your box. Nearly everything I have is in it, and it is not full. Pain and excitement are in it, and feeling good or bad and evil thoughts and good thoughts - the pleasure of design and some despair and the indescribable joy of creation.
And on top of these are all the gratitude and love I have for you.
And still the box is not full.

What more need be said?

-Probably Because I Have To
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Drew Fetterman on June 5 2002
Format: Paperback
->While it is often said that quality is much more important than quantity, there are times in which you can slap the two together to get a surprisingly good result. Such is the case with John Steinbeck's immense novel, East Of Eden. Although famous for his earlier novel Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck considered East of Eden his more important, life-long work for him. "I've been practicing for a book for 35 years, and this is it. There is only one book to a man," he said to his publisher when he completed the novel in 1952. Indeed, this novel is a truly a culminative work of Steinbeck's
->The story is tragedy, with rays of hope strewn throughout it and a moral lesson behind it. It is about the intertwining destinies of two sets of people in the Salinas Valley: the gregarious and emotionally diverse Hamilton family and the passionate, moody Trask clan. The book centers many of its themes around biblical references, such as the fall of Adam and Eve, and the deadly rivalry between Cain and Able. The importance of individual identity, and the consequences of blind love are also discussed.
->The book is a example of great story telling. Steinbeck had a natural flow of language that the reader can relate to and uses practical, to-the-point diction to easily communicate his story. The progress of the Trask family's development from zealous and impulsive into contemplative and vigilant is fascinating to watch. Steinbeck makes you either love his characters or loathe them, depending on whom he's talking about. There's something about his writing that compels you to read on to the next chapter to learn what new tragedy or jubilance will afflict the character next. It is simply a book that you won't put down; that is, until you realize how much time has gone by.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By edzaf on Aug. 12 2003
Format: Paperback
If Oprah Winfrey was looking to get the American public (and perhaps even the world) interested in reading "classic" literature she could have not chosen a better selection than John Steinbeck's "East of Eden." This is certainly not the "tamer" Steinbeck that I read in high school English class. While we may not even think twice about it today, "Eden" must have been simply scandalous when it was originally published in 1952 with murder, prostitution, and adultery just some of the more "adult" issues explored in this epic novel.
Despite its intimidating length, "East" moves along quickly as we follow the life of Adam Trask - from his East Coast childhood and troubled relationship with his brother to businessman and father of two sons with equally complex relations of their own. As the title suggests, the book is a modern retelling of the biblical story of Cain and Abel story. As with most of the "classics," the novel is rife with topics and themes to deeply delve into and discuss with your book club. My only criticisms are that the "good vs. evil" angle gets a bit heavy-handed at times and, for me, the novel loses some steam in the final quarter - but these are certainly not enough to not heartily recommend the work.
The nice thing about "Eden" is if you choose not to take the "literary" route, you can still be simply entertained and enthralled by Steinbeck's plot and characters. There is enough suspense and intrigue that make it not terribly different from many of today's bestsellers.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By William Lo on March 26 2003
Format: Paperback
What an incredibly written novel portraying the Biblical story of Cain and Abel! I have never come across a book this great. Steinbeck did a marvelous job in putting his thoughts and themes together throughout the book. Each characters is very well defined and each symbolizes either the good or the evil. Thimsel- "thou mayest" is a Hebrew word that means "GOD has given humans the choice to overcome their sins". This phrase means a great deal to the novel and in fact, it is the core idea of the novel. A person might inherit characterstics of his predecessors, but he is the one who has the ability choose whether to follow though it or to stand up on his own conscience.
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