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Tour: 44. In the Shadow of the Cypress by Thomas Steinbeck...

April 6, 2010
Today's tour offering is the first full-length novel from cinematographer and photojournalist Thomas Steinbeck.

in the shadow of the cypress
Title: In the Shadow of the Cypress
Author: Thomas Steinbeck
ISBN-13: 9781439168257
Hardcover: 242 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 2010
Purchase at IndieBound, Amazon

FTC Disclosure: My copy of In the Shadow of the Cypress was provided by Pocket Books for this blog tour. I am an IndieBound and Amazon affiliate, and any purchases made by clicking on the cover or the links provided may result in monetary compensation.

About the author:
Thomas Steinbeck began his career on the 1960s as a motion picture cinematographer and photojournalist in Vietnam. He serves on the board of the Board of Directors of The Stella Adler Theater and The National Steinbeck Center. He has written numerous dramatic adaptations of his father's work as well as a number of original documentaries. Thomas Steinbeck lives on the central coast of California with his wife.

drey's thoughts:
In the Shadow of the Cypress is a two-part story. The first details the discovery of ancient artifacts that seem to show that the Chinese had actually arrived on California soil way before the Spanish did, with the fleet that the Ming emperor Zhu Di sent out to explore the world. The grand admiral heading this expedition is none other than Zheng He, whom I like to imagine is an ancestor in my family tree... Yes, I have a very active and fertile imagination! Now, to find someone who can look up and translate those ancestor lists...

The journal entries of a Dr. Charles Gilbert, a marine biologist at Stanford University's Hopkins Station in Pacific Grove, California, captures the initial discovery of the artifacts, albeit second-hand. The story then transfers into the purview of an American-born Chinese, Dr. Lao Hong, who is responsible for negotiating for custody of the artifacts on the behalf of a more important, more prestigious tong. Not only would they be better able to protect the artifacts, but ownership would amplify their prestige and power.

Part II of In the Shadow of the Cypress starts off with a Chinese Proverb: wisdom is not a birthright, it is a treasured inheritance. Can I say I love this? Ok, back on track. The second half takes place ninety-three years later, when young Charles Lucas (known as Luke) discovers Dr. Gilbert's trunk in the musty attic of the Hopkins Station. Upon reading Dr. Gilbert's journal, Luke is obsessed with finding out if the Chinese truly did make landfall before the Spanish did. He enlists the help of Dr. Robert Wu to translate the ancient Chinese characters, and the two form a close friendship.

We run into some coincidences here, with Robert's ancestor being none other than Dr. Lao Hong, and his father heading the modern incarnation of the Three Corporations, the tong that had paid for the artifacts back in 1906. And the story itself progresses quickly from conjecture to research to launching a search team. No, I'm not going to tell you how this ends. Read this for a nifty look at historical events that are likely true, but not taught as such.

drey's rating: 3.5/5 Very Good

Challenges: 100+, Pub

2 comments:

bermudaonion said...

Ooh, that sounds interesting. I find it fascinating that the author has a background in cinematography and photojournalism

Book Dilettante said...

I discovered Thomas Steinbeck at the library and liked his book. I thought it interesting that it was his father who first got him curious about this aspect of California history.

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