Thomas Steinbeck: Dr. Greenlaw and the Zulu Princess (review)


After having read Cabbages and Kings by Thomas Steinbeck for this  Novellas in November challenge and really liked it, I was very excited about having received another one to read from the publisher.
In Dr. Greenlaw and the Zulu Princess, the main protagonist, Dr. Thaddeus Greenlaw, is a man who wants to be left to his own devices and who doesn’t leave behind the slightest impression of a personality. He is a professor of comparative philosophy but only chose this subject to spite his father – or rather all of his family since he regards them as his mortal enemies. His only real ambition in life was to be a highly skilled craftsman and make unique furniture but his father prevented that and completely destroyed his opportunity to do this. So he teach philosophy and dislikes it and just exists in his life without truly living it.
But then his luck changes. His parents die and Greenlaw inherits a fortune. Because of his new acquired wealth he immediately retires and moves. This newfound freedom gives him the opportunity to finally realize his dreams and so he ends up buying a boat to restore, he makes friends and generally just enjoys himself.
As I was really enjoying this novella. Even though I don’t care one bit about sail boats or restoring them to their former glory, I still enjoyed reading about Dr. Greenlaw’s project and how this un-impressive nobody suddenly found his passion and became somebody.
But towards the end, the last 10 pages, something changed. We stopped following Dr. Greenlaw and instead the book focus on one of the other characters and I must admit, that I didn’t get this part. I simply didn’t understand quite what was happening or why. I think this novella would have been better if it had been finished when it stopped following Dr. Greenlaw. After that I was just confused. I was expecting a wonderful twist towards the end just like in Cabbages and Kings because it felt like it was leading up to something. And something did happen that might be explained as a twist. But I didn’t understand where Steinbeck was going with it and I was left feeling disappointed after finishing it. Which is a shame because I liked reading about Dr. Greenlaw. I’m also left with a nagging feeling that I’ve overlooked something or missed a clue somewhere so I’ve tried finding other reviews or thoughts about this novella that could help me understand what was going on. Unfortunately, this one is so newly published that I couldn’t find any reviews that could help me.
Still, I liked the story of Dr. Greenlaw finally finding his passion and having the courage to change his life when given the opportunity so I still consider this a good end to my Novellas in November challenge.

First line: For those who claimed his acquaintance, and they were only a pitiful few, Dr. Greenlaw appeared a most unexceptional gentleman.

  • Title: Dr. Greenlaw and the Zulu Princess
  • Author: Thomas Steinbeck
  • Publisher: Post Hill Press
  • Year: 2013
  • Pages: 117 pages
  • Source: Own collection – Kindle
  • Stars: 3 stars out of 5

I read this for Rick’s Novellas in November challenge.

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