#CBR7 Review #196: East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Do you remember the female student who was all aghast when I confessed I hadn’t read Beloved? Well, she has several male counterparts who expressed equal indignation that I hadn’t ever started East of Eden. So I decided to do them a favor, as well. I had no idea what I was headed into, but after Of Mice and Men, I held no illusions about the content. I seriously *hated* Of Mice and Men. Still, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Adam Trask is the world’s most naively idealistic man. He is gentle and intellectual, unlike his rough and cruel half-brother Charles. Adam ends up in the army for several years, and upon his return, he discovers that he and his brother are co-inheritors of a fortune. Then, Cathy falls into their paths. I’m pretty sure that Gillian Flynn based Gone Girl’s Amy Dunne off of Cathy. She’s a psychopath, and the only female character for most of that book, so yay feminism. Not.

Oh, yeah, I think you might be assuming that I did not like this book. And you would be correct. So, where was I? Oh, yes. Adam decides to go all Tertius Lydgate (from Middlemarch) on Cathy and whisks her off to California, against her desires. Twin sons send her into madness, and Adam is left to raise them alone. Cal and Aron (get it? Get it?) grow up differently; one is beloved of all, the other struggles and rages through life. And the end is explosive. Or something.

What I have learned through this reading experience is that I really don’t like John Steinbeck. He’s a skillful writer (that’s why I upgraded this book from one star to two). I just do not care for his characterizations and plots. At all. My students were aghast when I told them. I think I’ll live. The Chancellor is trying to convince me to read The Grapes of Wrath. I am giving him the side eye for that.


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