Readers: Minimum should be 10th grade reading level. One must remember that Steinbeck wrote in the early 1900’s which makes it difficult for those with a lower reading level. Great book for those who are trying to read difficult material.
Summary: The book centers around the character Henry Morgan. After doing a bit of research I found that the alcoholic drink Captain Morgan was named after this pirate. The main focus is Henry Morgan sacking Panama and lusting after a woman who was believed to be the most beautiful in all the world. This was Steinbeck’s first novel published long before of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath. This book was written to loosely follow history making it a mix of fiction and history.
I found the story quite enjoyable. I have always enjoyed pirate literature and found this to be a very exciting novel. You live the life of Henry Morgan and it is clear Steinbeck is a masterful story teller. Follow Morgan as he grows up in a simple village. He dreams and desires a life on the sea and the first chance he gets he find a spot on a ship and is sold as a slave. From servitude he is able to work himself up and once free is able to get a ship and begin attempting to sack the cities of Spain.
Positive: The thing I enjoyed most about this book was the writing. Steinbeck takes a story which does not carry much excitement. The book has a very historical feel, but with the description and the emotion Steinbeck uses he takes history and breathes fire into it. I found even when the book hit a spot with little action the writing of Steinbeck is able to carry you through.
Negative: The biggest problem with this book was the lack of stability within the story. I am not sure if Steinbeck did this on purpose or not, but when Morgan would remember something in his childhood it would not be what he wrote earlier in the book. The story is a bit slow as well. Even with his writing this book was difficult to stay interested in.
Writing: The writing is some of the best I have read. I was really surprised to learn that this was Steinbeck’s first work.
Quote: “Why, to speak truthfully, Robert, I have taken it into my mind several times – but always there were to many things to think about. I could not take the time to die. If I did, I might not be able to think ever again.” -Merlin
Final Thought: This book is an essential read. After reading this novel I hit the library once again to pick up The Grapes of Wrath. Steinbeck is an amazing story teller who reaches into the depths of humanity.
Next Up: I am reading a couple books right now. On kindle I have The Former Hero by Jeffrey Mays and like I said earlier I will be reading The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.