You know those phases you go through when the novels you read are enjoyable enough at the time but a few days later you've more or less forgotten them? I was going through one of those phases and moaned about it to the lady at the library desk. She asked if I had read much Steinbeck. I replied that I had read a few at secondary school, some 35 years ago.
And so I borrowed East of Eden on her recommendation, and absolutely loved it. It's a huge, chunky, sprawling, messy epic (which incidentally is not as popular with U.S Amazon reviewers as it is here) spanning generations. Other reviewers have outlined the plot so I won't repeat it. I know part of the novel was made into a film, but I think it would make a wonderful, lengthy, slightly soapy TV drama series. It has that feel to it.
Steinbeck's writing style has been criticised, and it is true that in places it feels rather clumsy and laboured. On the other hand, in places it is elegant and poetic, especially in the descriptions of nature. However, for me, the power of Steinbeck's storytelling abilities and vivid characterisation more than compensated for any faults in the quality of the writing.
It's the perfect antidote to flimsy, insubstantial novels and writing and I wholeheartedly recommend it.