East of Eden by John Steinbeck
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The strength and simplicity behind the writing made this a very satisfying book. It's expansive and thoughtful and just lovely.
The length made it feel didactic at times, in part considering how it's a retelling of the Cain & Abel story through multiple generations of a family. Despite that, making Cal the sympathetic character was a great way to frame the story. It is easy to be interested in the characters, with the way that Steinbeck gives their past stories and reveals their inner natures and battles.
What I really liked was how intricately Steinbeck wove his characters in with their surroundings. The Salinas Valley, and a few other locations like the farm back east and Kate's house, play a critical part. I especially loved reading about the Salinas Valley; Steinbeck is able to paint a vivid and pretty picture of the land.