East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Blog page

Good lord. I don’t know which to write about more – the amazing audiobook experience due to the narration by Richard Poe or the immersive awe-inspiring experience of reading Steinbeck’s words on paper.

It took almost no time at all to completely fall in love and have nothing but sheer adoration for the audiobook recording of East of Eden.

But, I had to wait for a library book to come in for me and rather than starting something else, I picked up the paper copy of East of Eden I have at home (the gorgeous Penguin Classics edition shown in the profile). My jaw hung so far open from the stunning use of language – I can’t even choose which incredible words or paragraphs to use – just every single one left me gobsmacked. Here’s only two – and it doesn’t even begin to cover how amazing his gift to write is:

Tom felt his darkness. His father was beautiful and clever, his mother was short and mathematically sure. Each of his brothers and sisters had looks or gifts or fortune. Tom loved all them passionately, but he felt heavy and earth-bound. He climbed ecstatic mountains and floundered in the rocky darkness between the peaks. He had spurts of bravery but they were bracketed in battens of cowardice.

But Tom got into a book, crawled and groveled between the covers, tunneled like a mole among the thoughts, and came up with the book all over his face and hands.

(Very much like the reading experience provided by Steinbeck here!)

This doesn’t truly show the splendour and magnificence – Steinbeck takes the smallest detail, like the furrow in someone’s brow, the colour and feel of the dirt under their feet, and gives it significance and description where you can reach out to touch it, feel it, and see it. So when I picked up the book, about half way through, I wasn’t sure if I should/could return to the audiobook? To see the greatness on the page just fully immersed me in it more than the audiobook could continue to achieve – even though Poe was brilliant. I was torn.

The characters, oh my, all of those characters – every single one fully detailed and realized. Every single one, every single aspect of their personality, their inner thoughts, their appearance… and there are a great number of characters. The imagination of this man! Mind blowing.

Now there were still many cringe-y moments – his depiction and description of women is something else! There were so many times when I just busted out loud laughing – women were being compared to chickens and cattle and most often they were described as nothing to look at but they sure could keep a good house! There were other moments that were difficult to listen to as well, such as the description of 3 madams of the local whorehouses – two women described in detail and first names provided, one black woman described only ever using one word. A difficult word to hear and a frustrating one to only hear for her, about her.

But the breadth and depth and detail in this story. Incredible. The imagination used to bring these people to life through many generations was jaw-dropping amazing. How everything came together in the end, reading of the deaths of the people that were becoming my beloved friends induced tears. Honestly, I laughed, I cried, I cringed. 5 glorious stars.

This was the book that sat every year on my 20 Books of Summer challenge reading lists. This year I finally and so blissfully read East of Eden. What an experience! This was the first book ever I’ve read by Steinbeck. It cannot be my last!