After I walked away from The Teleportation Accident, I felt like I should probably still choose a book that was on my TBR Pile Challenge list. Luckily, when I went to the library and took out the aforementioned title, I also picked up East of Eden. I thought I might bring it with me for the Easter long weekend (that weekend turned out to be VERY good for my reading stats) but I didn’t end up taking it with.
I don’t know why it took me so long to read East of Eden. Probably because I was devastated by Of Mice and Men and wasn’t too keen to feel that way again for a while. I mean, guys, that book is devastating. Normally I’m all for a book that breaks a reader into a zillion pieces, but that was above and beyond.
I also haven’t read tons of American Lit. I’ve read Little Women and Of Mice and Men and Tom Sawyer and anything else that might have been forced on me on school (in Canada) (and Edith Wharton because Edith Wharton) but most of it I haven’t read. The Grapes of Wrath? Nope. Anything by Hemingway? Nope. The Scarlet Letter? I tried – it was a DNF for me, too many thous. Death of a Salesman, Beloved or My Antonia? Still no.
I finally read East of Eden. And it was spectacular.
I had no idea. I had no idea about any of it. I didn’t know that parts of it was John Steinbeck’s own family history. I didn’t know that the movie was based on only the last third. I didn’t know that it would be so beautiful or profound.
Reading East of Eden for the first time is what I imagine it would be like to see the ocean for the first time. Steinbeck is so clearly the kind of writer that writers aspire to be.
I was initially totally intimidated by the size of the book and the dense text and by the fact that this was a John Steinbeck novel and he’s kind of a paragon of literature. But it was so readable! And the time that I did spend with this novel flew by. I ripped through pages and chapters, it was easy to read 100 pages in a day. Again, surprising.
I loved these characters. I loved Lee and Samuel Hamilton especially. Cathy Ames is something. What a character to create. Diabolical, unapologetic, a complete psychopath – and her a woman in a novel published in 1952. Becky Sharp-like indeed.
I’ve said it before but I’m so glad to have signed up for the TBR Pile Challenge. I might never have read East of Eden otherwise. Certainly not right now. And it was everything I love in a book. I might be a little obsessed with it now.