Friday, June 11, 2010

In the Shadow of the Cypress

I picked up this book not knowing if I really wanted to read it. I did and you should put it on your "to read " list.

The story is divided into 3 parts. The first section is the historical setup. It starts in 1906 in China Point, Ca., an enclave of Chinese immigrants. The story line goes into the social workings of the area (Tongs, etc.) and is historically accurate. Throw in a major earthquake and some storms and the story takes off. The story moves along into slightly more modern times through parts 2 and 3. Some of the characters continue through - some new ones are introduced and most of the new characters are descendants on people in part one.

Part 2 continues the story about some ancient Chinese artifacts that are discovered after a large ancient cypress tree falls over. The artifacts are a small statue and a marble tablet inscribed in three ancient languages. The tablet indicates that the Chinese reached America from the west long before the Europeans reached it from the east. The items are purchased by the major ruling tong after they decide that the locals of China Point cannot secure them properly. The artifacts are put on a boat to be shipped to northern California. The boat sinks and all the cargo is lost.

Part 3 is in modern times. A marine graduate student finds some historical papers regarding the documents. He contacts an ancient languages expert and they decide to try and find the now lost items. They launch a salvage operation with the help of his friend's father who turns out to be related to one of the original handlers of the tablet.

The book is well written, but the ending seems a little rushed, almost like Steinbeck didn't know how to end it. But the end satisfies. One aspect of the book I really like was the information on the Chinese immigrants to the U.S. Steinbeck includes not only information about where they lived in the U.S. but also information on their social customs and traditions. After all Thomas Steinbeck is John Steinbeck's son. I liked this book and would recommend it. It's more than just a historical mystery.

In the Shadow of the Cypress

In the Shadow of the Cypress
By Steinbeck, Thomas
2010-04 - Gallery Books
9781439168257 Check Our Catalog

From Thomas Steinbeck, son of novelist John Steinbeck, comes a thrilling story of a group of Chinese immigrants in turn-of-the-century California. …More

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