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Cup of Gold: A Life of Sir Henry Morgan, Buccaneer, with Occasional Reference to History

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From the mid-1650s through the 1660s, Henry Morgan, a pirate and outlaw of legendary viciousness, ruled the Spanish Main. He ravaged the coasts of Cuba and America, striking terror wherever he went. Morgan was obsessive. He had two driving ambitions: to possess the beautiful woman called La Santa Roja and to conquer Panama, the “cup of gold.” Steinbeck’s first novel and so From the mid-1650s through the 1660s, Henry Morgan, a pirate and outlaw of legendary viciousness, ruled the Spanish Main. He ravaged the coasts of Cuba and America, striking terror wherever he went. Morgan was obsessive. He had two driving ambitions: to possess the beautiful woman called La Santa Roja and to conquer Panama, the “cup of gold.” Steinbeck’s first novel and sole work of historical fiction, Cup of Gold is a lush, lyrical swashbuckling pirate fantasy, and sure to add new dimensions to readers’ perceptions of this all-American writer. This edition features an introduction by Susan F. Beegel.


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From the mid-1650s through the 1660s, Henry Morgan, a pirate and outlaw of legendary viciousness, ruled the Spanish Main. He ravaged the coasts of Cuba and America, striking terror wherever he went. Morgan was obsessive. He had two driving ambitions: to possess the beautiful woman called La Santa Roja and to conquer Panama, the “cup of gold.” Steinbeck’s first novel and so From the mid-1650s through the 1660s, Henry Morgan, a pirate and outlaw of legendary viciousness, ruled the Spanish Main. He ravaged the coasts of Cuba and America, striking terror wherever he went. Morgan was obsessive. He had two driving ambitions: to possess the beautiful woman called La Santa Roja and to conquer Panama, the “cup of gold.” Steinbeck’s first novel and sole work of historical fiction, Cup of Gold is a lush, lyrical swashbuckling pirate fantasy, and sure to add new dimensions to readers’ perceptions of this all-American writer. This edition features an introduction by Susan F. Beegel.

30 review for Cup of Gold: A Life of Sir Henry Morgan, Buccaneer, with Occasional Reference to History

  1. 5 out of 5

    PirateSteve

    John Steinbeck wrote a romance novel??? Well that's what the publishers at Popular Library want readers to believe. It seems Cup of Gold, Steinbeck's first novel, needed some good ol fashion salesmanship in order to make everybody involved some money. So they tried to pass this book off as a romance. From the front cover: " He Sacked Panama For A Woman's Kisses". From the back cover: "She was the lovely mystery woman of Panama. Every foulmouthed buccaneer on the Spanish Main dreamed of possessing John Steinbeck wrote a romance novel??? Well that's what the publishers at Popular Library want readers to believe. It seems Cup of Gold, Steinbeck's first novel, needed some good ol fashion salesmanship in order to make everybody involved some money. So they tried to pass this book off as a romance. From the front cover: " He Sacked Panama For A Woman's Kisses". From the back cover: "She was the lovely mystery woman of Panama. Every foulmouthed buccaneer on the Spanish Main dreamed of possessing her. It was desire to take this woman that brought Henry Morgan, King of the Pirates, to Panama. With torch and cutlass he laid waste to the mightiest citadel in Spanish America. And he did it all for Ysobel." I'm no romance expert... but I found no romance in this book. It is Steinbeck's well written historical fiction account of Henry Morgan. And Henry Morgan, successful rascal that he was, lusted for two things.... wealth and fame. This book is not even close to Steinbeck's best work but it does show signs of the brilliance to come.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    To me there's something appealing about the idea of reading a writer's novels in chronological order. Apart from having the opportunity to observe a development in literary skills, it feels like a properly organised thing to do. So for quite a while I regretted that I didn't do just that when I embarked on reading the works of John Steinbeck. I no longer feel that way. If this, Steinbeck's first novel, had been my introduction to his work, there's at least a chance I would have gone no further. To me there's something appealing about the idea of reading a writer's novels in chronological order. Apart from having the opportunity to observe a development in literary skills, it feels like a properly organised thing to do. So for quite a while I regretted that I didn't do just that when I embarked on reading the works of John Steinbeck. I no longer feel that way. If this, Steinbeck's first novel, had been my introduction to his work, there's at least a chance I would have gone no further. The subtitle of the novel is "A Life of Sir Henry Morgan, Buccaneer, with Occasional Reference to History". It re-imagines aspects of the life and career of the real life 17th century privateer and British colonial administrator, beginning with his youth in Wales, going on to his experiences as a bonded worker in Barbados and his career as a privateer (a polite word for pirate), which culminates in the sack of Panama. I appreciated the novel more than I might otherwise have done because of my familiarity with Steinbeck's life and fiction. It's an uneven mixture of swashbuckling boys' own adventure and coming of age story, with an overtone of Arthurian quest. Steinbeck was passionate about Arthurian legend and its varous literary incarnations and it's interesting to observe this obsession manifesting itself in his early work. Although quite different from Steinbeck's later, better, work, it shows hints of what would come to characterise his fiction: a strong sense of the natural environment and compassion for human frailty. Like most of Steinbeck's novels, this work has a moral. It's not a particularly subtle moral: essentially a variation on "be careful what you wish for". The manner in which the moral plays itself out is a little tedious, the last quarter of the work is disappointing and the ending is odd. These are definite weaknesses, but it is a first novel after all, and one that I mostly enjoyed. This is one for the Steinbeck completist and not the place to start with Steinbeck's fiction. Not great, not terrible, three and a bit stars because I'm such a fan.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jason Koivu

    Notorious pirate Captain Henry Morgan gets the John Steinbeck treatment, and I loved it! But what to call this? It's sort of a biography, but there are obviously fantastical elements to it. History, fiction...historical fiction? Whatever the case, Steinbeck does an admirable of bringing Henry Morgan to life. How much of it is real life, well, who's to say? It begins in Wales with Morgan as a child being enthralled by the dark and mysterious tales of a salty dog. He is overcome with an undeniable i Notorious pirate Captain Henry Morgan gets the John Steinbeck treatment, and I loved it! But what to call this? It's sort of a biography, but there are obviously fantastical elements to it. History, fiction...historical fiction? Whatever the case, Steinbeck does an admirable of bringing Henry Morgan to life. How much of it is real life, well, who's to say? It begins in Wales with Morgan as a child being enthralled by the dark and mysterious tales of a salty dog. He is overcome with an undeniable impetus to go a buccaneering. And so he does. Steinbeck shows the influences that transformed the young Morgan into the legend he would become. We then get a taste of his pirating. Not a great deal. Anyone that came into this hoping for wall-to-wall swashbuckling adventure will be disappointed. I've read enough Steinbeck to know what to expect. One of those books was his attempt at the Arthurian legends, so the more fantastical elements, that seem so very not Steinbeck, I wasn't surprised by. The man liked tall tales and adventure. This fits right in. My review is based on the audiobook version narrated by Ronan Vibert, who does an absolutely excellent job capturing the introspective tone that takes up much of this book. Vibert, and English actor, also proved masterly at handling the many and widely varied accents within Cup of Gold: English (classes and regions), Spanish, Creole, and most importantly, the fairly difficult Welsh. He jumped between these, as well as male and female version of them, with great dexterity.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    First, the woman who wrote the introduction should be hanged for treason. "Thoroughly masculine and should find much favor with those male readers who delight in bloody tales of piracy and rebellion." Male readers? Hello! I quite enjoy a little bit of bloodthirsty swashbuckling and I ain't male. And I obviously really enjoyed this story :) It was really very fun and I loved seeing Morgan's character evolve all the way from pitiful on up. He was a fascinating character. Although not particularly c First, the woman who wrote the introduction should be hanged for treason. "Thoroughly masculine and should find much favor with those male readers who delight in bloody tales of piracy and rebellion." Male readers? Hello! I quite enjoy a little bit of bloodthirsty swashbuckling and I ain't male. And I obviously really enjoyed this story :) It was really very fun and I loved seeing Morgan's character evolve all the way from pitiful on up. He was a fascinating character. Although not particularly complex, it showed how both external and internal factors formed and changed him. And yes, we get bloodthirsty swashbuckling pirate-y fun, and quite a magnificent raid on Panama. Oh hell, it was fun!

  5. 5 out of 5

    BrokenTune

    Cup of Gold had all the elements that promised an enjoyable read for me: Steinbeck, pirates, historical fiction. And, yet, I was so bored. Apparently, this is Steinbeck's first novel. Knowing this, I can forgive the book some of the tediousness and lack of message, but still, knowing what Steinbeck is capable of creating in his later books makes it difficult to like this book any better.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Curie

    I had no idea John Steinbeck's first novel was a romantic story about pirates! I'm on a personal quest to read his work chronologically, so it made sense to start here. And it turned out to be an origin story as far as writers have one. Well, yeah, the first thing that comes to my mind when thinking of Sir Henry Morgan is the whiskey, but there's certainly more to his story. Cup of Gold traces his life from early childhood to his eventual death, retelling all kinds of adventures and romantic enc I had no idea John Steinbeck's first novel was a romantic story about pirates! I'm on a personal quest to read his work chronologically, so it made sense to start here. And it turned out to be an origin story as far as writers have one. Well, yeah, the first thing that comes to my mind when thinking of Sir Henry Morgan is the whiskey, but there's certainly more to his story. Cup of Gold traces his life from early childhood to his eventual death, retelling all kinds of adventures and romantic encounters that happened in between. It's a lush first novel that didn't attract much attention upon its original publication and only received mixed reviews back in the day, but it's particularly interesting to read now, knowing what an outstanding writer Steinbeck would eventually become. And even in a work as early as this, you already have those classic poetic descriptions of landscapes: "The wind had died, leaving a thick silence on the hills. Everywhere the sad, soundless ghosts flitted about their haunting." Ah, what would Steinbeck be without phrases like these! But on a grander scale, this felt more like a character study. The Henry Morgan we meet here was made for big things, with an impulsive and adventurous character. As his own father marks early on: "I say to you, without pleasure, that this son of ours will be a great man, because he is not very intelligent. He can see only one desire at a time. I said he tested his dreams; he will murder every dream with the implacable arrows of his will. This boy will win to every goal of his aiming; for he can realize no thought, no reason, but his own." But Morgan has a weakness: women. Or to be more specific, it's one in particular. His true love named Elizabeth, who makes him beware of female power and turns him into a man unable to have meaningful relationships for the rest of his life. And it is this conflict, the fear or feeling, that followed Morgan onto his deathbed, that made this short and debutant novel worth your time. "We are rich with all the little pictures of the past and the things he played with. They can never go while life is here."

  7. 4 out of 5

    Djrmel

    To be a fair critic of this book, you'd need to not know who the author was before you started the book. As a first book, it doesn't deserve to carry the literary stigma of The Grapes of Wrath or Of Mice and Men. And it is a stigma, because any reader who has read those books will go looking for at least the seed of what was to become some of the greatest writing of the 20th century, and if it's a readers first Steinbeck, they're going to be expecting to see what is so great about his work. Unfo To be a fair critic of this book, you'd need to not know who the author was before you started the book. As a first book, it doesn't deserve to carry the literary stigma of The Grapes of Wrath or Of Mice and Men. And it is a stigma, because any reader who has read those books will go looking for at least the seed of what was to become some of the greatest writing of the 20th century, and if it's a readers first Steinbeck, they're going to be expecting to see what is so great about his work. Unfortunately for this book, it just wasn't there yet. And of course it shouldn't be, how many really good authors do their best work first? That's not to say this is bad writing, rookie Steinbeck is still better that 50% of what I've read. The theme, a young man dreams of more, believes he can obtain it through hard work, and then discovers that life isn't that simple (okay, so there's that seed of future Steinbeck) is portrayed through a fictionalized version of the life of the very real pirate/privateer Henry Morgan. There's an odd sort of realism to the book, Steinbeck's pirates do have pillage and torture, rape is alluded to, they make use of the services of prostitutes, but there's no mention of them killing anyone when they do these things. Whole Spanish ships are captured through the use of fire and canonball, but there would appear to be no casualties. That lack of finality weakens the story tremendously, (view spoiler)[and when Morgan does kill two members of his own crew, one that he's grown very attached to, it makes the previous omissions of mortality all the more obvious. (hide spoiler)] I'd go with 2 1/2 stars if I could, but I'll bump it up because a)Steinbeck and b) Pirate.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    Having left port with the completion of Cup of Gold, my friend, Mikki, and I have embarked on a reading voyage that paddles through all books Steinbeck chronologically plus a few stow-away biographies. Cup of Gold launched Steinbeck's literary career and has the distinction of being his only historical novel. From a Steinbeck fan POV, this book fascinated me. The flashes of Steinbeck phrase-ology peeked through like the sun on a mostly overcast day in the first and last chapters, while the middle Having left port with the completion of Cup of Gold, my friend, Mikki, and I have embarked on a reading voyage that paddles through all books Steinbeck chronologically plus a few stow-away biographies. Cup of Gold launched Steinbeck's literary career and has the distinction of being his only historical novel. From a Steinbeck fan POV, this book fascinated me. The flashes of Steinbeck phrase-ology peeked through like the sun on a mostly overcast day in the first and last chapters, while the middle chapters consisted primarily of vintage Steinbeck. I felt I could see him fishing in the deep blue sea for his voice and style in the two chapters mentioned before, while the mid-voyage was awash with the patented Steinbeck smoothness of speech. Personally, I'm glad he abandoned the historical novel ship and flew his own colors writing novels that encompass what he learned in his own life and about his family history. The advice write what you know cannoned him to fame and served other writers well. However, I enjoyed my time asea with Captain Henry Morgan in the golden pages of this first treasure. My spyglass is now trained on the next novel, The Pastures of Heaven.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Malum

    A very unusual part of Steinbeck's bibliography, Cup of Gold is an adventurous pirate tale. On top of that, it is also draws heavily on Celtic themes, complete with Merlin, Annwn, and witchcraft (although it never fully becomes fantasy, leaving these things firmly in the realm of "maybe it was real but maybe not"). This might seem like an odd combination but Steinbeck makes it work, turning this into an almost Arthurian pirate adventure tempered with the heavier themes that Steinbeck is so good A very unusual part of Steinbeck's bibliography, Cup of Gold is an adventurous pirate tale. On top of that, it is also draws heavily on Celtic themes, complete with Merlin, Annwn, and witchcraft (although it never fully becomes fantasy, leaving these things firmly in the realm of "maybe it was real but maybe not"). This might seem like an odd combination but Steinbeck makes it work, turning this into an almost Arthurian pirate adventure tempered with the heavier themes that Steinbeck is so good at employing.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jo Lisa

    I can't even BEGIN to say enough about this book! It starts wonderfully, lags a bit, then finishes with Steinbeck awesomeness!! Henry Morgan is probably the most famous English pirate to ever sail! It would be fair to say that the romanticizing of pirates in movies and stories also came partially from the story of his life. In Cup of Gold, Steinbeck takes that life and turns it into a tale that captivates..The story of young Henry feeling the call of the sea; the joining of himself to other pira I can't even BEGIN to say enough about this book! It starts wonderfully, lags a bit, then finishes with Steinbeck awesomeness!! Henry Morgan is probably the most famous English pirate to ever sail! It would be fair to say that the romanticizing of pirates in movies and stories also came partially from the story of his life. In Cup of Gold, Steinbeck takes that life and turns it into a tale that captivates..The story of young Henry feeling the call of the sea; the joining of himself to other pirates; the search for the most sought after woman in the world; and finally the conquering of Panama! Old Henry does not feel the same about the world, but more importantly, he does not feel the same about himself. We see the Henry of all ages as he strives for something he cannot name, but can't seem to stop chasing! I highly recommend this book! I almost wish that I didn't know that Steinbeck had to balance biography and historical fiction to concoct this beautiful tale!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Angeliki

    Steinbeck Year 2016 Book 1 Cup of Gold was an awkward book. Trying to combine the history of captain Morgan with the Holy Grail was a funny idea. But you can still see something of what is to follow in this little novel. ------------------------------------ “He has come to be the great man he thought he wanted to be. If this is true, then he is not a man. He is still a little boy and wants the moon.” “Why do men like me want sons?" he wondered. "It must be because they hope in their poor beaten so Steinbeck Year 2016 Book 1 Cup of Gold was an awkward book. Trying to combine the history of captain Morgan with the Holy Grail was a funny idea. But you can still see something of what is to follow in this little novel. ------------------------------------ “He has come to be the great man he thought he wanted to be. If this is true, then he is not a man. He is still a little boy and wants the moon.” “Why do men like me want sons?" he wondered. "It must be because they hope in their poor beaten souls that these new men, who are their blood, will do the things they were not strong enough nor wise enough nor brave enough to do. It is rather like another chance at life; like a new bag of coins at a table of luck after your fortune is gone.”

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kat

    Wondrous first novel by Steinbeck. Great introduction to the 1936 copy...

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ana

    This book was not for me. It has neither swashbuckling, nor romance and lets not get started on the way it talks about colonialism and people of color. Would recommend only to Steinbeck die-hards.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    I can read novels worth of Steinbeck writing descriptions of everything from landscape to feelings. He had a wonderful way with words. The plot certainly gives away the fact that this was his first published work, but it has its charm. I enjoyed that it pushed an envelope for sensuality and featured a strong heroine like Ysobel, who could fence and laugh in the face of danger. I genuinely liked This debut.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    Ten years of fighting and plundering and burning, and he was thirty. His graying hair seemed to coil more closely to his head. Henry Morgan was successful, the most luck-followed free-booter the world had known, and the men of his profession gave him that admiration he had craved. His enemies - and any man of Spain who had money was his enemy - shuddered at the mention of his name.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Dalia Ammar

    Didn’t like it very much.. it wasn’t interesting that’s why it took me that long to read it

  17. 5 out of 5

    Marcel

    I honestly loved this book! I've read reviews of people who don't like it much and people who love it. I loved this book, but I don't think it's a good place to start if you want to read Steinbeck. Get some background reading on Steinbeck before you read this one. I have tons of experience reading Steinbeck, as this is the 7th John Steinbeck book I've read. If you're a pirate adventure fan, or a fantasy fan who is not much interested in Steinbeck's other works, then go right ahead and read this I honestly loved this book! I've read reviews of people who don't like it much and people who love it. I loved this book, but I don't think it's a good place to start if you want to read Steinbeck. Get some background reading on Steinbeck before you read this one. I have tons of experience reading Steinbeck, as this is the 7th John Steinbeck book I've read. If you're a pirate adventure fan, or a fantasy fan who is not much interested in Steinbeck's other works, then go right ahead and read this first, but if you plan to read more Steinbeck, then don't read this first as it is such a large change from his other books. In short, this is a great pirate adventure novel and you can see that this novel is a Steinbeck at certain points. This is a great book for all Steinbeck fans and casual readers alike.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Chris Blocker

    I honestly expected to absolutely hate Steinbeck's first published novel. I've heard several warnings about how terrible it is. Perhaps these warnings only buoyed my opinion. Cup of Gold certainly is far from the author's greatest works, but it's probably not his worst. In fact, this one gets off to a decent start as young Henry must grapple with his desire for adventure. His conflict with his parents regarding his future and the subsequent life of servitude were the novel's highlights. It's when I honestly expected to absolutely hate Steinbeck's first published novel. I've heard several warnings about how terrible it is. Perhaps these warnings only buoyed my opinion. Cup of Gold certainly is far from the author's greatest works, but it's probably not his worst. In fact, this one gets off to a decent start as young Henry must grapple with his desire for adventure. His conflict with his parents regarding his future and the subsequent life of servitude were the novel's highlights. It's when "the adventure begins" that the pacing gets wonky and the story starts to drag.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Terri Lynn

    I am a huge Steinbeck fan and have been for ages but this one disappointed me terribly. I didn't hate it but I felt that this-Steinbeck's very first novel-wasn't great in any aspect! Fortunately, after this first highly forgettable novel, Steinbeck improved his writing and became a superstar of literary classics that we came to know and love.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jeana

    While this isn’t Steinbeck’s best novel—it was his first—you can see that he clearly has a beautiful way of describing things and a way with words that isn’t normal. This is his only historic-fiction novel, which keeps him within bounds of the story he committed to tell—and leaves little room for his normal brilliance. Still, I’m glad I read it and could see glimpses of what’s to come.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    It's clearly his first novel. At times it reads like a pulp or romance novel. Some lines of dialogue are cringeworthy. We do catch glimpses of the writer he would turn into, but "Cup of Gold" is far, far from his best. Were it not such an enjoyable tale in and of itself, I would not recommend it.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Julia Leporace

    “The wind’s frenzy was his frenzy.”

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mary Dayhoff

    Steinbeck's first novel written in 1929; perhaps my father read it as a young man also enchanted by pirates. Steinbeck seems to searching for his voice in this first novel - sometimes I am lost in a mythical narrative and then later I recognized his swift engaging and searching questions of life.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ian Anderson

    I wasn't feeling this one. I was hesitant going in because the subject matter isn't something I care all that much about to begin with. 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 I wasn't feeling this one. I was hesitant going in because the subject matter isn't something I care all that much about to begin with. 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 suspensful, 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 then 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 are next!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Will Hearn

    It's Steinbeck, but it's definitely early. His craft is not honed in this story like the rest. It left me a little unsatisfied, with the last 50 pages leaping through stages of Henry Morgan's life without the pieces all connecting well and making sense. His experiences with the key characters in the story, particularly the women, felt a little shallow. He was a scared man, despite all his conquests, and, to paraphrase someone towards the end of the story, he's a foolish man, because he was able It's Steinbeck, but it's definitely early. His craft is not honed in this story like the rest. It left me a little unsatisfied, with the last 50 pages leaping through stages of Henry Morgan's life without the pieces all connecting well and making sense. His experiences with the key characters in the story, particularly the women, felt a little shallow. He was a scared man, despite all his conquests, and, to paraphrase someone towards the end of the story, he's a foolish man, because he was able to do great things, he must've been foolish. Some of Steinbeck's characters throughout his novels are foolish, but they are more of other qualities than foolish. Henry Morgan was mostly foolish, and a little clever, with his foolishness being the thing most explored. Still, the writing is exquisite.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Laura Schrillo

    I enjoyed this story. Originally, I thought this was the story of Henry Morgan becoming a pirate and growing from a boy to a man. Later, as is pointed out by the sage, we realize it is the story of a boy trying to fight growing up. He is driven by fear. First of the ordinary and then of love. The writing is amazing of course and so descriptive. It is easy to see how this could be mistaken for more of a non fiction book. Good start to the year of Steinbeck.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Maria Jo

    This novel was a good story of a country boy becoming the greatest and most feared buccaneer in the world. However, the story moved very fast for me, and I was a little disappointed that (view spoiler)[Henry never returned to see his father (hide spoiler)] This novel was a good story of a country boy becoming the greatest and most feared buccaneer in the world. However, the story moved very fast for me, and I was a little disappointed that (view spoiler)[Henry never returned to see his father (hide spoiler)]

  28. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Albright

    This is a strange book, but given that this was John Steinbeck's first novel, it is not surprising that it should be odd. Not commonly reviewed when it was first released to very modest popular success, the novel became much more important after Steinbeck's novels as a whole became popular, and people started to read this novel with an eye towards his future work. And as a reader of this novel, it is important not to try to read this as being some sort of harbinger of the author's work as a whol This is a strange book, but given that this was John Steinbeck's first novel, it is not surprising that it should be odd. Not commonly reviewed when it was first released to very modest popular success, the novel became much more important after Steinbeck's novels as a whole became popular, and people started to read this novel with an eye towards his future work. And as a reader of this novel, it is important not to try to read this as being some sort of harbinger of the author's work as a whole and it is easy to see elements of this novel that were were continued in the author's later and more successful efforts. The helpful introduction points out some of this, such as the author's characteristic blend of a cynical realism as well as a fond taste for somewhat heavy-handed symbolism, the author's fondness for focusing on the little people, and a certain romanticist attitude when it comes to love and the mystery of women. It should be noted as well that while the novel's lack of realism is fairly openly obvious, that the book was treated later on as a more or less straightforward history rather than a work whose darker view of its subject in an anti-heroic work was highly biased and not strictly factual at all. The Cup of Gold is a short novel of less than 200 pages, or about 200 pages if one includes the introductory material that sets the context of the book within the author's writing as a whole. If this book is definitely not a famous book, it has a great deal of meaning for the author, particularly in the way that it demonstrated a love for playing with historical material as well as reflecting aspects of the author's influences that were not fashionable at the time he started writing novels and whose unfashionability remains the case today. As far as a story goes, this book takes a chronological approach to the life of Sir Henry Morgan that only occasionally approximates the reality of his life. Morgan is portrayed as abandoning the traditional ways of his family to go thieving and finds himself to be an indentured servant with a yearning for knowledge and power whose relationships with women leave a lot to be desired. The author underplays Morgan's genuine love match with his cousin and make the movement of Sir Henry from young and ambitious and driven man to elder statesman and British colonial official an anti-heroic journey marched by extreme violence and treachery even within the treacherous world of piracy. Is this a novel worth reading? You can certainly do a lot worse in reading novels than in reading a lesser work in which Steinbeck was still gaining mastery over his powers. In many ways the novel sits uneasily between the boys' own adventuring novel that its publisher tried to portray it as with its swashbuckling hero, its humorous "Welsh" dialect language, and its oddly ignorant attitude towards women as being mysterious beings and the mature blend between realistic and symbolic elements that Steinbeck would work towards over and over and over again later on in his works. There are genuine moments of humor here and those with a cynical attitude towards the English use of piracy as a means of attacking the Spanish with plausible deniability (sometimes) will find much to appreciate here, as the English come off as being on the same level as Middle Eastern terrorists or Somali pirates in their savagery and lack of respect for the property rights of others. This book is a reminder, if a reminder is necessary, that those who are property poor tend not to respect property rights, but those who are property rich change their tune in response to their changed interests, something that is as true of England or Sir Henry Morgan as it is to contemporary companies like Disney, or even to the career of John Steinbeck himself.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Louis

    Set sail to a pirate’s life in John Steinbeck’s “Cup of Gold.” This was his first published (1929) novel and it’s a work of historical fiction. From the introduction it’s stated that it’s a “…fictive biography that follows the career of the actual Sir Henry Morgan (1635?-1688), England’s infamous “King of the Buccaneers,” with considerable fidelity.” I really enjoyed this work. It leans more to adventure than his other works that I’ve read, yet one can “see” Steinbeck here. It’s mentioned that it Set sail to a pirate’s life in John Steinbeck’s “Cup of Gold.” This was his first published (1929) novel and it’s a work of historical fiction. From the introduction it’s stated that it’s a “…fictive biography that follows the career of the actual Sir Henry Morgan (1635?-1688), England’s infamous “King of the Buccaneers,” with considerable fidelity.” I really enjoyed this work. It leans more to adventure than his other works that I’ve read, yet one can “see” Steinbeck here. It’s mentioned that it was marketed as an adventure tale as that these sorts of works were popular back then. But I have to smile at any young readers picking this up thinking they were just going to read a “simple” tale of piracy. They risked falling overboard and drowning in his sea of beautiful words. There are a few scenes of action, but Steinbeck can’t contain his talent, so like from a barrel of rum, his wonderful talent with words, his insights, the great writer that he will become, spills out onto the page. Let me offer you some shots of his “150 proof” talent: “Why do men like me want sons?" he wondered. "It must be because they hope in their poor beaten souls that these new men, who are their blood, will do the things they were not strong enough nor wise enough nor brave enough to do. It is rather like another chance at life; like a new bag of coins at a table of luck after your fortune is gone.” “...You are a little boy. You want the moon to drink from as a golden cup; and so, it is very likely that you will become a great man -- if only you remain a little child. All the world's great have been little boys who wanted the moon; running and climbing, they sometimes catch a firefly. But if one grow to a man's mind, that mind must see that it cannot have the moon and would not want it if it could -- and so, it catches no fireflies.'” “...I say to you, without pleasure, that this son of ours will be a great man, because -- well -- because he is not very intelligent. He can see only one desire at a time. I said he tested his dreams; he will murder every dream with the implacable arrows of his will. This boy will win to every goal of his aiming; for he can realize no thought, no reason, but his own. And I am sorry for his coming greatness...” If you are a fan of Steinbeck, the classics, or just reading one with the strength and talent to be the captain of a ship that defines a story as it sails a sea of words, come onboard. This short tale avoids choppy waters, provides some excitement and promises smooth sailing! --- Okay, I had a bit too much fun writing this. Wish I had his talent to really make it work. But I think you get the idea. 😉

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sheri-lee

    What I love about this book is you would never know it was written in 1929. It has a very modern written feel to it. And, really, it's Steinbeck...how could you not like it?

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