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  • East of Eden

  • Written by: John Steinbeck
  • Narrated by: Richard Poe
  • Length: 25 hrs and 23 mins
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (426 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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.

©1952 John Steinbeck; Renewed 1980 Elaine Steinbeck, Thom Steinbeck, and John Steinbeck IV (P)2011 Penguin Audio

What the critics say

"A novel planned on the grandest possible scale...One of those occasions when a writer has aimed high and then summoned every ounce of energy, talent, seriousness, and passion of which he was capable.... It is an entirely interesting and impressive book." (The New York Herald Tribune)

"A fantasia and myth...a strange and original work of art." (The New York Times Book Review

"A moving, crying pageant with wilderness strengths." (Carl Sandburg)

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What listeners say about East of Eden

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  • M
  • 2019-01-16

Worthy of its reputation

I couldn’t stop listening to this book! The narrator is absolutely fantastic and made even the more philosophical passages engaging and easy to follow. I really enjoyed the storyline as well. It is an inter-generational saga and reminded me of 100 Years of Solitude in that the entire life stories of otherwise inconsequential characters are told. You really get a good understanding of each character and are therefore attached to them as they grow and change.

3 people found this helpful

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East of Eden

I had forgotten what a wonderful writer John Steinbeck was. The story is beautifully written, rich and full of meaning. I read the book before but listening to it was a wonderful experience when read by an excellent reader! I’m sure I’ll listen to it again.

2 people found this helpful

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Interesting and a great illustration

The book itself is filled with imagery of good and evil. Richard Poe did a great narration that I held on to for 25hrs. Only con is that a lot of effort was put into the story line of Kate and Charles and they didn’t have a good ending.

2 people found this helpful

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Racist / misogynistic/ genocide

If you are sensitive to rape culture and racism- please do not read this book

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Amazing

This is by far my favorite book now. The characters and the storyline is unlike any other.

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Makes me want a made up Hebrew tattoo

The book is great, the flow through the families and the generations is amazing. The characterisation feels so true to life and really makes everyone feel like folks you've met. It does a lot to demystify other folks internal monologues as well.

One of the best books for taking you out of your own head and placing you into the morals and motivations of someone else.

Even the mistranslation of Timshel in itself is interesting. This non existent word is now out there in the collective headspace with it's own life and meaning.

Truly loved this book.

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Such a great listen

Loved this book and narration. When I first saw the length I was a little concerned. But it passed by before I knew it, and wished it could keep going.

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Not unlike some events today

The reader keep it real by using voice pitches.
John S knows how to keep his writings interesting.
Bob

1 person found this helpful

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Details and description that draw you in

Terrific saga of the nature of mankind. A wonderful, yet frightening read, salient even now in our current era. Narrator is pleasant to listen to and gives life to the characters.

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Deeply and unforgivably misogynist

I will concede that Steinbeck has his virtues; he is no doubt an exceptional crafter of multigenerational stories, perhaps second only to Marquez.
In this book however, as in much of Steinbeck’s work, he seems to have no idea what to do with his female characters. Nearly all of them are bizarrely caricatured, either grimly silent and moralized or pathologically unredeemable. In both such cases, women in the novel are consistently otherized and possess no real agency. The result is a novel which, while notable for its ambition, is extremely clumsy with its female characters and strangely lacks any self-awareness about it.
East of Eden, overly encumbered by direct biblical analogies, has an Adam, a Cain and an Abel, each with a degree of nuance. Yet Steinbeck has no interest at all in a cogent arc for Cathy, whom the narrator (rather lamely) declares from the outset as a “malformed soul” and who is this ludicrously overwrought as a projection of human depravity. The novel commits itself entirely to her vilification and to the reification of sin through her, in my opinion squandering much of its credibility in the process.
The book no doubt has an enduring readership and critical reputation. Unfortunately, it is entirely marred for me by its misogynistic archetypes and its equivocations of moral turpitude with a feminine “lack” (I’ll leave you to figure out what Steinbeck means by this 🙄).
I am tempted to call this a bad book.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Kelly
  • 2017-03-25

Why have I avoided this Beautiful Book???

I do not know why I have never read this book. Perhaps I thought this classic would be dull and boring. Perhaps I thought it would be too difficult to enjoy. Perhaps I thought it wouldn't stand the test of time. Or, perhaps, I was simply an idiot who denied herself a deliciously beautiful story!

There are many wonderful reviews of this book that will talk about the symbolism and allegory found here. I won't be talking about the Cain & Abel theme. I have no great insights into the Bible and am wholly incapable of doing more than mention to that aspect of the book.

What I will say is this: the characters are deep, complex, real, and flawed. They are people you will find compassion for. They are people who will anger. They are depraved and loving. You will both like and detest each of them. They are people who will make you think and feel. Mr. Steinbeck has written each of them a profound and subtle touch which made me feel as though I truly knew them. Adam, Charles, Aaron and Cal became my neighbors. They became my friends. I saw in them all the things I see in the people who populate the real world.

At the close of the book I was deeply sad to leave them behind and I find myself thinking about them often during the days that have followed. I will certainly visit the Trask family again.

Richard Poe perfectly narrated this book. He was spare with emotion, allowing the listener to see how closed these men were with their own emotions. He also didn't try to impose much accent on the voices of the Trask men which allowed Lee's accent to standout which felt appropriate.

157 people found this helpful

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  • J.B.
  • 2016-04-13

This Drama Prepares You for Life

East of Eden, by John Steinbeck, and narrated by Richard Poe. A journey into youth’s tortured parental burdens. I saw the movie decades ago yet, as I read the story the scenes came back to me in vivid recollections. That movie did justice to the book, because it was brilliantly directed, magnificently filmed, and just the best acting ever seen.

Somehow I have only managed to read three of Steinbeck’s works. The Grapes of Wrath and Travels with Charley in Search of America. The first read was Travels, at about fourteen and I did myself wrong. Travels bored me. Then I read Grapes of Wrath and thought, no author could involve me more in his story than Steinbeck. No story could have more enthralling characters, no story could be so moving, and no author could teach me more about life. That was until I read East of Eden. Wikipedia reports Steinbeck as saying, "It has everything in it I have been able to learn about my craft or profession in all these years." He further claimed: "I think everything else I have written has been, in a sense, practice for this." He understates how its excellence as entertainment and enlightenment.

Steinbeck’s East of Eden is perfect tragedy. A form of drama, a story of human conflicts, based on human suffering that invokes an accompanying catharsis is the reader/listener. There are a plethora of human evils here to examine, and then to consider how it is we cause torture on one another.

Why should one commit themselves to such torment? Because life is conflict and resolution, about compelling actions and reactions, and discovery of the nature of man and hope that it will assist us in our confrontations with other human beings. Perhaps even give us an advantage in the next encounter with evil or appreciate the next encounter with love.
Steinbeck will teach you to be prepared.

126 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • karen
  • 2011-07-24

American classic, not to be missed.

East of Eden has to be one of the finest books every written by an American author. Over the years, I've read it about four times -- this was my first listen. Every time I read it again, I saw new things, new connections, new nuggets of insight I hadn't seen before -- this time, listening to it, that happened again. I lived for many years in Steinbeck country -- Pacific Grove, Monterey County -- so among the things I loved were the achingly beautiful descriptions of the countryside, the people, the farmers. A hundred years have passed, but many things in the Salinas Valley haven't changed -- it's still the "Salad Bowl" of the US, so when Adam Trask tries to ship lettuce to the east coast, that's probably based on a real story. I loved the tales of Salinas' early days, with the whorehouses, the churches, women wearing gloves - or not. (Come to think of it, there probably stilll are whorehouses there too) All in all, it's just a magnificent family saga, in every way. Makes you laugh, makes you cry. Incredible book -- and Richard Poe did a wonderful job narrating -- his "Lee" came fully to life for me, and I thought he made the very different characters of Caleb and Aaron clear, just by their voices and how they spoke. Really excellent book -- thanks Audible!

103 people found this helpful

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  • Suzn F
  • 2011-07-07

Epic story of Love and Loss

This is a story of family, nuclear and global. The story centers around twin brothers Aaron and Caleb Trask, yet it becomes perhaps more a story of their parents, Adam and Catherine. Cathy is a dark character, a friend of murder, perversion, blackmail, and prostitution, devoid of humanity and Adam is just the opposite.
And there is Lee, the family servant who becomes both mother and father to the twins as the two parents abandon the boys for their own disparate reasons.
The mood and setting are tangible; the story epic. I'm so happy to be able to listen ( terrific narrator) to one of my favorite authors.

70 people found this helpful

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  • Curious Reader
  • 2012-05-19

Possibly the best audio book I have heard

I missed reading this when young, and the only impression I had of it was from the James Dean film, I am sad to say. This narrator sounds like the voice of Steinbeck whispering in your ear. I reach work in the morning desperate to leave my headphones on because I cannot bear to be parted from the book. It is the very best of Steinbeck produced and read to perfection. I may just start listening to it from the beginning in a couple of hours when I reach the end.

42 people found this helpful

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  • James Turner
  • 2012-10-11

Very compelling book and great narration

What about Richard Poe’s performance did you like?

Richard Poe did a great job. Very professional and pleasant all around. He really brought the book to life and his voice suited the material very nicely.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Well, one sitting would be a bit much, but, yes, I was always eager to listen too more.

Any additional comments?

Glad I was finally able to experience this classic. I've been enjoying Steinbeck lately. I'm new to Audible, and this is the type of book that I'm most interested in: classics with great narration.

38 people found this helpful

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  • KP
  • 2013-03-31

An Experience Everyone Should Have

Incredible, incredible, incredible. Great story, great writing, and solid narration combine to make this a must-listen. I especially liked the dialogue and description of California such that the land almost becomes a character. Plus, the well-developed characters are all very original and you learn as much about their flaws as their strengths.

It takes place in the early 1900's and it is so well-written that you can smell, taste, and imagine the surroundings. The novel introduces several cultural references that make you feel like you really understand that time. Just incredible! I understand why Steinbeck thought this was "his magnum opus".

The narrator does a nice job given the complexity of so many characters.

31 people found this helpful

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  • Michael
  • 2014-03-09

Good, but not my Favorite Steinbeck

I love Steinbeck but this is not one of my favorites. The prose were wonderful and there is marvelous imagery and strongly developed characters, yet I found something missing. Most of Steinbeck novels have a structure and flow quite different from most modern American novels. This is strongest in his short story collections and The Grapes of Wrath and To a God Unknown, but is also true of the Cannery Row novels. These all have a bit of a mystical flow and lack formulaic structures. East of Eden, in a few places, becomes slightly preachy and is slightly more formulaic than the best of Steinbeck. It is nevertheless very good and quite well worth reading. I really enjoyed the narration which was clear and had subtleties that enhanced the experience. I give this four stars only relative to the greatest of novels, which one might expect from Steinbeck.

27 people found this helpful

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  • Rich
  • 2017-06-04

Truth, Choice, and the Freedom That Lies Within

Steinbeck's 'East of Eden' is a thinly-veiled treatment of the biblical story of Cain and Abel. No knowledge of Christianity is required for admission (I myself am not Christian).

Why this title wins with me is that Steinbeck presents the themes of Cain and Abel at a level that transcends its biblical origins, making those themes available to a much wider audience. Case in point: the character who perhaps embodies this theme most is--of all people--a Oriental servant with Confucian ancestry.

The plot, editorial interludes, and Steinbeck's wonderful gift of dialog keep the pages turning. While 'Eden' is short on positive female characters (Liza and Abra are minor at best), the characters of Sam Hamilton and Lee prove to be not only enduring leads, but superb role models as well. Themes of free will, parent/child relationships, good/evil, and the value of honesty throughout. I want to hand this book to any young adult male struggling with esteem, identity or direction.

Written later in his career, Steinbeck was especially proud of 'Eden,' and indeed it is a jewel of a read. It has its imperfections (e.g., superfluous characters), but in his own words: "And now that you don't have to be perfect, you can be good". Poe's narration does wonderful justice to this title. Long live Steinbeck.

22 people found this helpful

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  • W Perry Hall
  • 2014-01-19

Fertile, colorful Biblical tale of flawed humanity

This novel wasn't on my 1980s school reading list which included Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" and "Grapes of Wrath." After now reading the novel and listening to the audible version of "East of Eden," this seems to me, Steinbeck at the apex of his abundant storytelling talents.

He set out intending to write a story based loosely on the Bible's tale of Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel and splendidly succeeded. No more morally-corrupt, evil female character can be found in the canon of American Literature than Cathy Ames (which seems to have caused most of the poor ratings flowing on other book sites from a front of feminist paramilitants). All the males in the novel have major character flaws and seem so real.

I like this narrator, in the main. The ever-present breathless pauses at the end of each sentence do get annoying though.

The novel fired up a sparkler of emotions in me, took me back to an open country of California in the early 20th century. I highly recommend it.

20 people found this helpful