East of Eden


Every year, just as summer’s beginning, Joy the Baker mentions that she’s rereading East of Eden. And every year, my curiosity is piqued by her enthusiastic love for the book. I mean, surely – this is a blogger I love, who I always come back to for laughs and cooking and internet love. So surely a book recommendation from her is worth checking out?

This year, I finally bought myself a copy of East of Eden on a whim. And oh my God, why did I wait so long?!? It’s everything I love about reading and books and American literature, but more. More gritty, more poetic, more heartbreaking, more beautiful. Ugh. I’m only 100 pages in and it’s already breaking my poor heart.

East of Eden, says the back of my 2012 Penguin reissue, is about a place, the Salinas Valley in California, and about two families who come to live there and “whose destines are fruitfully, and fatefully, intertwined.” The Hamiltons are a hardworking, God-fearing family, and the Trasks – well, 100 pages in, I’m not quite sure what the Trasks are, but they’re wealthy and interesting and the two brothers, Adam and Charles, have this love-hate relationship that is delicious and flinch-worthy all at the same time. At this point in the novel, the Trasks haven’t even made it to California yet, but I can’t wait to see what happens when they do.

I said above that East of Eden is everything I love about American literature, and it’s true. I love mid-century American fiction – it’s clean, and strong, and poetic. I can feel the sun on my face and the aching in my heart when I read it, and it makes me grateful for my sprawling country, and eager to explore the other.

I suppose it does that on a life-sized scale as well. It makes me grateful for my life, and eager to explore everything that I can.

Steinbeck’s prose is beautiful. If you follow me on twitter, you may have noticed that I couldn’t help but break my usual silence to tweet a couple of choice phrases over the last week. Phrases like There was real fear mixed up in his love, and the precipitate from the mixing of these two is cruelty make my skin prickle. I keep coming back to them; pages and pages later I flip back to read those delicious phrases again. That’s what I love about reading, and why I love mid-century literature.


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