I wasn’t feeling this one. I was hesitant going in because the subject matter isn’t something I care all that much about. The whole pirate thing I’m not naturally enthusiastic about. However, I do believe if a book is engaging enough I’m usually able to connect with it in some way no matter the subject. So I did remain open-minded and trusted that Steinbeck’s first novel would have enough for me to get something out of it. And I did, it just wasn’t much.
The novel really wasn’t all that bad for his first and his talent is certainly evident here, it just wasn’t very enjoyable for me personally.
It’s great to see how his style at this early stage in his career compares with his more known works that I’ve read. His signature prose is there, making it effortless to read. I love the flow of his writing which kept me going when I was becoming bored with it. Luckily it’s a short one. There are also flashes of his grandfatherly wisdom that I always love. My first issue was that we know Henry Morgan was a destructive privateer. As the story begins in Morgan’s teenage years we know where he is going. He isn’t going to be a likable character, which is fine, but now the reader has to take interest in seeing how he goes down this path. The problem is none of it was suspenseful, or epic, or even engaging in the slightest for me. We are told that his takeover of Panama is coming, but we already know the outcome before the battle even begins. So even if you don’t know that part of history he makes sure you know fairly early, which kills any buildup that could have been achieved. The characters also fell flat for me. I don’t think Steinbeck was able to create his memorable, layered characters that I know and love with this one.
I don’t want to turn people off to it completely so I will say many might find this a lot more exciting than I did. It was interesting to read his only piece of historical fiction. And hey, it told me a lot more about Captain Morgan himself, namesake of the rum. If you haven’t read anything by Steinbeck before, I don’t encourage you to start with this one, but knowing where he started does make me excited to read what’s to come. I’m very confident he has a lot of great ones in his bibliography that I haven’t touched yet. The Pastures of Heaven is next!
My rating: 1 of 5 Stars