Cinnamon, May 18, 2010 (view all comments by Cinnamon)
IN THE SHADOW OF THE CYPRESS by Thomas Steinbeck was certainly an interesting read. First following an ancient discovery and then finding out how that impacts the lives of the researchers who come in contact with it, readers are taken through a whirlwind of events that leave the mind excited and energized.
If there is one thing I can say about Mr. Steinbeck’s writing, it’s that he really does seem to have a way of instilling life into this book. It’s easy to get bogged down in a complicated story, especially when the passage of time is involved. IN THE SHADOW OF THE CYPRESS, however, didn’t leave me feeling exhausted as so many long and complex stories do. Instead, it’s like this story woke me up and made me want to learn more. Perhaps that was Mr. Steinbeck’s purpose; perhaps he just wanted to write a really good piece of fiction. Either way, I think he accomplished his goals.
One of the aspects of the book that made it shine for me, was the development of the major players and their personalities. Dr. Charles Gilbert comes to us through his journal, his entries detailing the original discovery of ancient Chinese artifacts found on Californian soil possibly before the introduction of Spanish explorers. What could this mean for our history? The implications of this are immense and Mr. Steinbeck fully utilizes this to add tension and suspense to the story.
Mr. Steinbeck develops the story in a two-part fashion. The first part focuses on the discovery of the artifacts while the second part follows Luke and Robert through the discovery of Dr. Gilbert’s journal and their research to discover the truth. Could it be true? Did the artifacts arrive before the Spanish explorers? You’ll just have to read and find out.
The most addicting part of this book is the intrigue. As soon as you really get into Dr. Gilbert’s journal entries, it’s hard to remember that this is in fact fiction. Mr. Steinbeck has a great way of making the reader feel like a part of the story and this is what drew me in.
I would recommend this book for rainy days, outings at the beach, or any other time you really want to get away. Fully capturing the mind, I think I can guarantee that this story will provide a great escape.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No (2 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
gaby317, April 7, 2010 (view all comments by gaby317)
In the Shadow of the Cypress is an unusual and engrossing read. The book is told from three points of view: that of Dr. Charles Gilbert, a professor at Stanford University in 1906, that of his contemporary, Dr. Lao-Hong, a Harvard-educated Chinese who takes an active role assisting the Chinese community, and that of Charles Lucas, a graduate student at Stanford in the present. At the center of the book is a mystery of unique Chinese artifacts that were first discovered in Northern California in 1906, at a time that Chinese immigrants are marginalized.
The novel begins with the narrative of Dr. Charles E. Gilbert, a professor of marine biology at Stanford. As Gilbert describes life in Northern California during the early 1900s, he sympathizes with the local Chinese as they face open discrimination and attacks on China Point. Gilbert learns about the discovery of unique Chinese artifacts and his fascination with the mysterious artifacts leads him to a great mystery.
Then the novel the impact that the artifacts have on the local Chinese community from the point of view of Dr. Lao-Hong, a contemporary of Dr. Gilbert's. Dr. Lao-Hong is a Harvard graduate and well respected member of the Chinese community. Born, raised and educated in America, Dr. Lao-Hong often shares a "semi-Western sensibility" and often feels torn between two cultures. In a society where family ties and connections are of critical importance, Dr. Long-Hong is fortunate in his family and clan; he is nephew to two highly respected directors of the powerful Three Corporations. As the representative of Three Corporations, Dr. Lao-Hong tasked with balancing conflicting claims over the artifacts that would respect the people and town where the artifacts were discovered, the local tongs and his clan, and the interests of Mainland China.
When as a student at Stanford, Luke comes across Dr. Gilbert's notes on the artifacts and he immediately recognizes the importance of this groundbreaking discovery. Luke tries to decipher the symbols and enlists the expertise of Robert Wu, a Chinese American PhD candidate. Working together and aided by cutting edge technology, Luke and Robert decipher the mysteries of the ancient Chinese artifacts.
Thomas Steinbeck's In the Shadow of the Cypress is a well-crafted and fascinating read. The mystery of the artifacts drew me in but I found the descriptions of Dr. Lao-Hong and the Chinese communities to be the best part of the book. Steinbeck weaves an intriguing tale and offers a sympathetic look at a hidden culture.
1439168253 - Hardcover
Publisher: Pocket (April 6, 2010), 256 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No (3 of 3 readers found this comment helpful)
by Ray Bradbury,
"There are two Steinbecks in the world, one is John and one is Thom, and they are twins in excellence."
by Playwright Terrence McNally,
"Thomas Steinbeck has found his own voice and he exults in the sound of it. This is authentic, honest American writing. The kind of writing a father would be proud of."
by Publishers Weekly,
"Stylistically speaking, the apple doesn't fall far from the family tree in this debut collection by Steinbeck. . . . Steinbeck's naturalism and his accomplished voice make it clear that the family's literary legacy is in good hands."
Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.