East of Eden by John Steinbeck is considered one of America’s great literary classics along with his other treasured book The Grapes of Wrath. According to Steinbeck’s third wife, Steinbeck considered East of Eden his magnum opus. He further claimed: “I think everything else I have written has been, in a sense, practice for this.”
I think its reputation as one of the ‘greatest books of the 20th century’ is richly deserved. It’s an epic novel of 601 pages and my mind was swimming in the complex tapestry Steinbeck wove of these two families, namely the Tresks and the Hamiltons. A very well received screen adaptation was made of the book starring legendary protagonist of Rebel Without a Cause James Dean playing ‘Cal’. Upon being introduced to James Dean on the set, author John Steinbeck exclaimed, “Jesus Christ, he IS Cal!” Interestingly, the film only covers the latter part of the novel.
Wikipedia states, ‘The novel was originally addressed to Steinbeck’s young sons, Thom and John (then 6½ and 4½ years old, respectively). Steinbeck wanted to describe the Salinas Valley for them in detail: the sights, sounds, smells, and colors.’ I can attest to this since the book evokes such a wondrous feel of the places and the period it was set. A truly remarkable novel.