By Thomas Steinbeck
Counterpoint Press, $25.00, 288 pages
In The Silver Lotus, Thomas Steinbeck, son of John, has written a sort of epic about the lives of Captain Jeremiah Macy Hammond, a dashing—and brilliant—merchant ship captain and Lady Yee, the daughter of one of Canton’s most successful traders, who falls in love almost instantaneously and forms an extremely strong and, personally and financially, powerful alliance with one another that in many ways shapes the path of California’s history, most especially the growth and prosperity of the Monterey Bay area (a region which, not coincidentally, featured prominently in John Steinbeck’s novels).
The Silver Lotus is a pleasant, unchallenging read, but, as with many novels that span decades in the lives of their protagonists, it often feels more like a history, a list of events that are somehow important but don’t always seem to have a purpose or be particularly intriguing. There is also a predictability to the story that proves somewhat disappointing. The story itself is dramatic and sweeping, in a way, but the writing is more suited to a humble story, and is thus disappointing. The story is pleasant—but I’m still not sure why I should care. And, to me, that’s a problem.
Reviewed by Ashley McCall