Thomas Steinbeck's short story collection Down to a Soundless Sea won high praise from critics and readers everywhere. Now, he continues the family tradition of fascinating storytelling in his first full-length novel In the Shadow of the Cypress, which showcases his splendidly assured voice and exquisite eye for cultural detail. In 1906, Doctor Charles H Gilbert, a Stanford professor of marine biology discovers some ancient jade artefacts on California's Monterey Peninsula. The existence of these sacred stones, if authenticated, would indicate a very early Asian presence in the New World, an idea that conflicts with modern beliefs. When the Chinese fishing village where the artefacts were discovered is completely burned to the ground, there are many conflicting opinions about the proper fate of these artefacts. Eventually, a wealthy businessman agrees to pay for the stones to be transported back to China - but a tragic explosion on the boat occurs and the relics are lost at sea...until nearly a hundred years later when two young scholars join forces and attempt to locate the sunken treasure. With superb attention to cultural detail, Steinbeck brings to vivid light the Chinese immigrant experience at turn of the century California, juxtaposing complex ancient rituals against contemporary customs with the grace, passion and authority of a master.
An Irishman of uncertain character discovers ancient Chinese artifacts in a cypress grove near Monterey, California, in the early 1900s. As a result of that discovery, the lives of the Tong elders and a Stanford marine biologist are intertwined in a series of events that will not be fully understood until, a century later, two graduate students team up to investigate them. Jeff Harding's soothing voice and credible accents keep the listener on track as the plot changes points of view and time periods. This literary novel benefits from Harding's pacing, subtle inflections, and sensitive changes in volume, especially in the first part, which consists of journal entries. The story is so convincingly woven from a factual base that the listener often forgets this is a novel. C.B.L. © AudioFile 2010, Portland, Maine