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East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Review by Liara

Well, it's not fantasy, but it's all I've had time to read lately (for school, of course). So here I go with my very first book review for the FFF! No spoilers, I think...

This is an amazing book. Steinbeck said that his purpose was to tell the story of both good and evil, and he certainly succeeded. The book covers three generations of the Trask family that moves to California from the east. Each generation has a very strong, well-crafted allusion to the Cain and Abel story. Another family, the Hamiltons, is also incorporated into the story, but they seem to disappear after the first half or so, and only one character from that family is important to the Trasks, who are really the main focus.

The plot is complex and sprawling. The characters interact in ways that I sometimes felt were too coincidental, but the more I thought about it, the more I saw that was the only way it could have happened. I should warn you that some of the events are quite disgusting, and early on you wonder when he's going to talk about good as well as evil. I think Steinbeck is a pessimist at heart, but it does get to the goodness eventually.

In addition to the plot, there's a lot of philosophy, most of it dealing with the nature of good and evil, and of sin, and how humanity is a mixture of all of these. The subject of free will is also very important. The philosophy chapters were sprinkled throughout the book in places where they were near relevant plot points, and really added to a deeper understanding of a book that could be read just for an interesting plot.

While this book is a rather heavy read, and not one you should pick up if you just want some amusing entertainment, it is an excellent book and you feel a bit wiser, more enlightened, after reading it. I give it five out of five amulets.

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