Summary and book reviews of Down To A Soundless Sea by Thomas Steinbeck

Down To A Soundless Sea

by Thomas Steinbeck

Down To A Soundless Sea by Thomas Steinbeck X
Down To A Soundless Sea by Thomas Steinbeck
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Oct 2002, 224 pages
    Paperback:
    Dec 2003, 336 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

Deeply felt and richly imagined, full of compelling drama and historical authenticity, Thomas Steinbeck's stories are as memorable and rugged as the coastline that inspired them. Click the excerpt link to read a complete short story.

Here is an unprecedented fiction debut that is cause for celebration. Growing up in a family that valued the art of storytelling and the power of oral history, Thomas Steinbeck now follows in his father's footsteps with a brilliant story collection. Down to a Soundless Sea resonates with the rich history and culture of California, recalling vivid details of life in Monterey County from the turn of the century through the 1930s. Steinbeck accomplishes an amazing feat: his stories have the feel of classic literature, but his haunting voice, forceful narrative drive, and dazzling imagery are unmistakably his own.

In seven stories, Steinbeck traces the fates and dreams of an eccentric cast of characters, from sailors and ranchers, to doctors and immigrants—as each struggles to carve out a living in the often inhospitable environment of rocky cliffs, crashing surf, and rough patches of land along the California coast and the Big Sur. In "Blind Luck," a wayward orphan finds his calling at sea, only to learn that life must concede to the whims of authority and the ravages of nature. In "Dark Watcher," with the country at the start of the Great Depression, a professor craves a plausible discovery to boost his academic standing—and encounters the Indian myth of a shadowed horsemen that may ruin his career. "An Unbecoming Grace" tracks the route of a country physician who cares for an ill-tempered cur—but feels more concern for the well-being of the patient's beleaguered young wife. The collection concludes with "Sing Fat and the Imperial Duchess of Woo," a novella that follows the tragic love story between a young apothecary and the woman he hopes to marry.

Deeply felt and richly imagined, full of compelling drama and historical authenticity, Down to a Soundless Sea heralds the arrival of a bold new voice in fiction. Thomas Steinbeck has written stories as memorable and rugged as the coastline that inspired them.

The Night Guide

Eighteen fifty-nine was the devil's own year for gales along the Sur coast, but their raucous zenith was registered near the end of April. Crashing up from the south-southwest with piratical ferocity, the cycle of gales unburdened enough water to send the Little and Big Sur Rivers four to six feet over their banks. The runoff from Pico Blanco alone kept the Little Sur at near flood for two weeks.

Sadly, every mortal creature that made the rugged coast a refuge suffered from the shattering blows of an outraged sea. Cresting rollers twenty feet high and two miles long mined into the impenetrable cliffs and rocks for days on end. Inevitably, every rookery, bower, haul-out, and nesting sight on the Monterey coast was swept away. The corpses of every known species of coastal life littered what shore there was left. The sharks enjoyed abundance for days after each gale.

The evidence of destruction was to be had from all quarters. Salmon Creek to Santa Cruz ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Discuss the implications of "home" in Down to a Soundless Sea. The collection opens with Bill Post constructing a home for his new family; Chapel Lodge in "Blind Luck" never has a real home growing up; and Dean in "An Unbecoming Grace" makes his home by throwing its original settler over a cliff and renaming the homestead for himself. What does the concept of "home" imply specifically in these stories of the newly settled Monterey Coast?

  2. "The Wool Gatherer" ends with the line, "John kept that receipt for years to remind him of his bear and the expense incurred by magic visions." What might this reference to "expense" imply, especially in a family of storytellers like the Steinbecks, who hold the "magic visions" of fiction in such high ...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
  • award image

Reviews

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Stylistically speaking, the apple doesn't fall far from the family tree in this debut collection by Steinbeck (son of John), a solid series of stories that deal with the settling of the Monterey Peninsula early in the 20th century.

Library Journal - Patrick Sullivan
This very appealing first collection draws on folklore, historical research, and tales that Steinbeck (son of John) heard growing up....A noble addition to the Steinbeck legacy.

Author Blurb Pat Conroy
Thomas Steinbeck writes with grace, authority, and passion. If John Steinbeck were my father, I would not have the courage to write a laundry list or a letter to the editor. But Thomas Steinbeck inherited his father's great love of story. It is a grand thing to have a Steinbeck back in American letters.

Author Blurb Terence McNally
These tough, unsparing stories are written as if they were lived, not imagined, by their author. Thomas Steinbeck has found his own voice and he exults in the sound of it. This is authentic, honest American writing. The kind of writing a father would be proud of.

Author Blurb Dan Chaon, Author of the National Book Award Finalist Among the Missing
Thomas Steinbeck's stories breathe vivid new life into nineteenth-century California, and bring to mind the pleasures of such writers as Hamlin Garland, Jack London, and Stephen Crane. This is a splendidly assured and convincing debut.

Reader Reviews

Anonymous

Having been a reader of John Steinbeck's writing for over 20 years, I rightly wondered what son Thom might have to offer. Upon reading Down to a Soundless Sea, it is immediately evident that Thom has inherited his father's love of telling a good ...   Read More

richard ponemon

I can't disagree with the many reviewers who have lauded this book. However I have a slightly negative feeling about an impression I get from his vocabularies. That is: I get a feeling that the use of various specialized vocabularies, the work-...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

More books by Thomas Steinbeck

If you liked Down To A Soundless Sea, try these:

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: That Time I Loved You
    That Time I Loved You
    by Carianne Leung
    Carrianne Leung was a Toronto Book Award finalist for That Time I Loved You as well as for her debut...
  • Book Jacket: The Pianist from Syria
    The Pianist from Syria
    by Aeham Ahmad
    Aeham Ahmad became famous as the face of Syrian suffering when a photo of him playing piano in the ...
  • Book Jacket: The Smiling Man
    The Smiling Man
    by Joseph Knox
    Joseph Knox's latest turns on a simple premise: an unidentified and unidentifiable murdered man is ...
  • Book Jacket: The Heavens
    The Heavens
    by Sandra Newman
    I've been a big fan of Sandra Newman's writing ever since reading her 2014 novel The Country of Ice ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    A People's History of Heaven
    by Mathangi Subramanian

    A story of love and friendship, and fighting for the places we love.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    American Princess
    by Stephanie Marie Thornton

    Rated 4.9 stars by BookBrowse members - one of the highest scores of all time!
    Reader Reviews

Book Club
Book Jacket
Girls Burn Brighter
by Shobha Rao

An extraordinary and heart-rending tale of two girls with all the odds against them.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Book Club Giveaway!
Win The Summer Country

Win up to 12 copies to share with friends or your book club!

A sweeping epic of lost love, lies, jealousy, and rebellion set in colonial Barbados.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

D T T! Full S A!

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.