Monday, 9 February 2004

I suppose I should post a small review of the books I read. My most recent conquest was East Of Eden, by John Steinbeck. I picked it from the small selection of English Language books available for a number of reasons, one of which was the name recognition associated with the author, but the most significant of which was that it was the thickest one on the shelves. This in no way increased its longevity, in that I completed it within a week. Indeed, perhaps 70% of it I read on Saturday. It is a sprawling story, covering roughly two generations of a number of families as they grow during the late 1880s and early 1900s in a changing America. The book is perhaps better characterised as an assemblage of archetypical characters and their interactions, than as a single linear story, although the characters are bound together by a theme. The characters are, in general, beautifully written: I particularly enjoyed those of Samuel Hamilton and his wife, and of Cal Trask, but most are recognisable. The exceptions, perhaps, are Steinbeck's "evil" characters, who I feel lack the necessary balance, despite the author's attempts to promote their inner conflict at various points. Perhaps some of the best sections of the book are those where Steinbeck grants himself the freedom to wax more philosophical about the nature of humanity, typically during the preface to the book's chapters. It is probably in these sections, free of the narrative imperative, where his prose wanders most widely, and most satisfyingly.

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