Probably the best of John Steinbeck's novels, East of Eden is long but not "big," and anyone who, deceived by its spread in space and time (c. 1860-1920), says that it is "epical in its sweep," is merely in the usual grip of cliche. It's dramatic center is a narrow story of social horror that rests quite disarmingly on the proposition that "there are monsters born in the world to human parents." But through the exercise of a really rather remarkable freedom of his rights as a novelist, Mr. Steinbeck weaves in...this story of prostitution a fantasia of history and of myth that results in a strange and original work of art.
Mark Schorer - New York Times (9/21/52)
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.
New York Herald Tribune
The newest addition to the Oprah pantheon is John Steinbeck's East of Eden, published in 1952.... All well and good, but that makes it all the more disheartening to report that East of Eden is a complete dud. And not just from the perspective of an academic such as Harold Bloom, who once wrote that nothing by Steinbeck after The Grapes of Wrath, including East of Eden, deserves re-reading. We're not talking about getting through this book twice, but just once. Oprah promised her readers a rip-roaring plot—“like a movie,” “you just don't want it to end”—and every one of the juicy Danielle Steele essentials—“[East of Eden] has it all: love and betrayal and greed and murder and sex.” But when the love has no resonance or dimension and the betrayal and murder seem deserved because a character has been written with such dullness, the book doesn't pass muster as a beach read, let alone a tome to stand the test of time. And the sex? Don't let Oprah fool you. She's mostly referring to the decidedly unsexy whorehouse that serves as a set piece in the second half of the book.
Jia Lynn Yang - Yale Review of Books
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