East of Eden by John Steinbeck
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Oprah's Book Club (nominee)
This sprawling and often brutal novel, set in the rich farmlands of California's Salinas Valley, follows the intertwined destinies of two families--the Trasks and the Hamiltons--whose generations helplessly reenact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel.
Novel by John Steinbeck, published in 1952. It is a symbolic recreation of the biblical story of Cain and Abel woven into a history of California's Salinas Valley. With East of Eden Steinbeck hoped to reclaim his standing as a major novelist, but his broad depictions of good and evil come at the expense of subtlety in characterization and plot and it was not a critical success.
Spanning the period between the American Civil War and the end of World War I, the novel highlights the conflicts of two generations of brothers; the first being the kind, gentle Adam Trask and his wild brother Charles.
Adam eventually marries Cathy Ames, an evil, manipulative, and beautiful prostitute; she betrays him, joining Charles on the very night of their wedding. Later, after giving birth to twin boys, she shoots Adam and leaves him to return to her former profession. In the shadow of this heritage Adam raises their sons, the fair-haired, winning, yet intractable Aron, and the dark, clever Caleb. This second generation of brothers vie for their father's approval. In bitterness Caleb reveals the truth about their mother to Aron, who then joins the army and is killed in France.
Today, nearly forty years after his death, Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck remains one of America’s greatest writers and cultural figures. We have begun publishing his many works for the first time as blackspine Penguin Classics featuring eye-catching, newly commissioned art. This season we continue with the seven spectacular and influential books East of Eden, Cannery Row, In Dubious Battle, The Long Valley, The Moon Is Down, The Pastures of Heaven, and Tortilla Flat. Penguin Classics is proud to present these seminal works to a new generation of readers—and to the many who revisit them again and again.
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