“East of Eden” by John Steinbeck
(First publication: 1952 / This edition: Penguin Books, Steinbeck Centennial Edition 2002)
Taken during afternoon tea at The House on Sathorn on Christmas Eve
“You have no love.”
“I had—enough to kill me.” (pg.257)
I’ve posted about “East of Eden” before, when I first read it a year and a half ago. Since then, whenever someone asks me what my favorite book is, I’d say it’s a tie between this one and “Lolita”. Well, not “say” but gush about for at least two minutes about what a beautifully emotional story it is. (which is what I’ll be doing in this post)
During my trip to London, my boyfriend and I went to Foyles on my first night there. He asked for book recommendations, so I
insisted again and again and took him to the “S” shelf to get this book suggested this one. However, since he loves more sci-fi and fantasy books, I also thought Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s “The Shadow of the Wind” would also be a good choice. As much as I cheered for “East of Eden”, I was kind of unsure whether he’d like Steinbeck’s “The Great Depression” and the old American West vibes.
So as he was leaning more and more towards “The Shadow of the Wind”, there was this panicky, overwhelming feeling in me that told me I could not possibly let him leave Foyles without “East of Eden” (haha)—so I got it for him. Passive-aggressively forcing him to read (and love) it too.
He read it during the next following days, while I read “The Course of Love”. And much to my surprise, as much as I was enjoying “The Course of Love”, I couldn’t help but get jealous of him! He would talk about how fun the story is and how great Steinbeck’s writing is and how he thinks Cathy will be up to something and how Charles’ letter to Adam is something so emotional and how whenever it feels like the story is slowing down, something will happen to surprise him again and on and on and on… and I ended up wanting to read it so bad. There were many times I had an urge to just drop “The Course of Love” and go get another copy of “East of Eden” or, dare I even confess, just confiscate the book from him so I can read it first.
(Above: Reading at our favorite coffee shop in Leicester, The Coffee Counter.
His copy is Penguin Books 2012.)
It makes me think of when I posted a photo on Facebook a long time ago of Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea” and my high school philosophy teacher commented saying that he’s jealous because he wishes he could read it for the first time again.
This was the first time I felt something like that about the book.
Of course I was immensely enjoying the fact that my boyfriend was immensely enjoying it.
Anyway, so when I got back home, I went to find my copy, dove right in, and happily immersed myself in Steinbeck’s world of Adam Trask, Cal and Aron Trask, Lee, and Cathy/Kate again.
I was surprised at how it almost felt like it was actually my first time reading it. My heart was racing in so many parts of the book. I’d even talk to my boyfriend about it— “Oh my god, I just read the letter part”, “Oh my god, have you gotten to Chapter 17?”, “Oh my god, you know when Cathy shot him?” …as if I had never read it before.
Reading it this second time around also made me collect more details and “hints” along the way—like a more thorough understanding of the development of the characters, the story, and the dots that bind them all together. I felt so much more for each character, even for Cathy, and it just makes me kind of sad, really, about how fragile humans really are.
The first time I read this book, I felt more attached to Lee and Abra’s character—because of how “good” they are. This time around, I felt more towards Cal Trask—and how “good” he is, or at least trying to be.
Second time finished. And I know I’ll be reading it at least 50 more times in this lifetime.
Here are some of my favorite lines from the book (adding to my first post):
“How could your mother do a man’s work?”
Lee smiled. “My father said she was a strong woman, and I believe a strong woman may be stronger than a man, particularly if she happens to have love in her heart. I guess a loving woman is almost indestructible.” (pg.354)
Well, every little boy thinks he invented sin. Virtue we think we learn, because we are told about it. But sin is our own designing.” (pg.266)
“[…] Was she very beautiful, Samuel?”
“To you she was because you built her. I don’t think you ever saw her—only your creation.” (pg.260)
“Do you take pride in your own hurt?” Samuel asked. “Does it make you seem large and tragic?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, think about it. Maybe you’re playing a part of a great stage with only yourself as an audience.” (pg.293)