Book Review: In the Shadow of the Cypress – Thomas Steinbeck

Title: In the Shadow of the Cypress
Author: Thomas Steinbeck
ISBN: 9781439168257
Pages: 256
Release Date: April 6, 2010
Publisher: Gallery
Genre: Mystery
Source: Amazon Vine
Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary:

In the early 1900’s, a man named William O’Flynn discovers a Chinese treasure buried beneath a cypress tree in California.  Despite his close ties with the Chinese community, he confides only in a Stanford professor about his discovery, until he mysteriously vanishes.  A century later, a graduate student picks up this trail through the professor’s journal and tries to discover what happened to the artifacts.

Review:

In the Shadow of the Cypress is a beautifully written and atmospheric mystery.  Steinbeck’s writing is very impressive; it has this amazing quality that permeates the entire novel with a thick atmosphere, making everything seem close.  This writing is really what draws readers into the book, simply because it is so easy to read.  Steinbeck takes a complex story and, with his writing, makes it the simplest and most natural thing to read because it’s so easy on the eyes.

Indeed, Steinbeck’s writing must be the hook for readers, because the plot is very slow moving.  This is a book to be savored and read slowly, not one to rush through for the plot.  If you are looking purely for plot, In the Shadow of the Cypress might not be the best pick.  It takes time for the book to pick up and really start moving somewhere, and even then, the pace is languorous.  This is a book about the incredible atmosphere and mystery surrounding everything.  The plot is interesting, but it almost seems a little too straightforward.  While I really enjoyed the writing and history, the mystery left something to be desired.

I always love being able to learn something while reading fiction, and so in that way. In the Shadow of the Cypress was a great read for me.  I appreciated learning about the Chinese community in the early 1900s and the suspicion with which they were viewed by everyone else.  The education on culture and Chinese maritime history was fascinating as well.  Steinbeck clearly did his research, and if anything, I would have loved more of this aspect of the book.

In the Shadow of the Cypress was a promising book, and though it left me wanting in some areas, I did enjoy it.  Steinbeck’s writing is simply breathtaking, and I couldn’t get enough of his gorgeous prose.  I also appreciated that it was an easy read, despite the slow moving plot.  I’ll definitely be picking up his next novel, and am hopeful that he will correct some of the issues from this one.

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Comments

  1. I definitely need to be careful of the mood I’m in before picking up a book that is mostly redeemable for the writing but not plot. And is slow. I’m not an action junkie, but I could get restless.

  2. I definitely need to be careful of the mood I’m in before picking up a book that is mostly redeemable for the writing but not plot. And is slow. I’m not an action junkie, but I could get restless.

  3. I sometimes really enjoy books with a slower pace. Especially when the writing is fantastic and there is a lot of character growth. Aati once did a series of posts asking what our favorite element of a book is, and when I had to think about it, I must admit that it has never been a fast moving plot. Great review, Swapna. I am glad that this was such a good read for you, despite the fact that you had some reservations.

  4. I sometimes really enjoy books with a slower pace. Especially when the writing is fantastic and there is a lot of character growth. Aati once did a series of posts asking what our favorite element of a book is, and when I had to think about it, I must admit that it has never been a fast moving plot. Great review, Swapna. I am glad that this was such a good read for you, despite the fact that you had some reservations.

  5. I do enjoy slower moving stories. It just really depends on what the story line is for me. I really think this book has a beautiful cover.

  6. I do enjoy slower moving stories. It just really depends on what the story line is for me. I really think this book has a beautiful cover.

  7. This may not be for me, because I like a faster moving plot.

  8. This may not be for me, because I like a faster moving plot.

  9. There are times when beautiful language alone can make a book perfect for me, but it usually doesn’t work. I also like things to HAPPEN. This review reminds me of my experience of the *other* Steinbeck, whose Grapes of Wrath moved SO SLOWLY. I am not sure if this book would really appeal to me- it would probably depend a lot on whether the author’s writing style was one that I’d enjoy sitting down with or not.

  10. There are times when beautiful language alone can make a book perfect for me, but it usually doesn’t work. I also like things to HAPPEN. This review reminds me of my experience of the *other* Steinbeck, whose Grapes of Wrath moved SO SLOWLY. I am not sure if this book would really appeal to me- it would probably depend a lot on whether the author’s writing style was one that I’d enjoy sitting down with or not.

  11. I just read Michael Crummey’s Galore, and I felt the same way about it: the writing is lush and wonderful but the story moves slowly. Sometimes that is the perfect kind of book; other times not so much.

  12. I just read Michael Crummey’s Galore, and I felt the same way about it: the writing is lush and wonderful but the story moves slowly. Sometimes that is the perfect kind of book; other times not so much.

  13. I think I liked this one better than you did. My biggest complaint was with the ending. I’m looking forward to more of his work, though.

  14. I think I liked this one better than you did. My biggest complaint was with the ending. I’m looking forward to more of his work, though.

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