CARIBBEAN by James A. Michener


A Novel
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Is anywhere on earth safe from Michener's roving eye? His latest conquest, the Caribbean Sea and its two dozen major islands, presents a typical clash of cultures--native Caribbean, Spanish, French, British, Rastaferian, American (or norteamericano, as one character admonishes)--that go on clashing for 700 pages. The generational approach of Michener's earliest books doesn't work here because the canvas is too broad and the time-span (1310-1989) too long. What we're given instead is essentially a series of longish short stories about characters who express the contradictions of the region and are usually destroyed by them: Bakmu, the peaceful Arawak whose prowess in games doesn't protect him from Caribe cannibals; real-life explorers Christopher Columbus, John Hawkins, and Francis Drake; Cavalier partisan Isaac Tatum, his Roundhead brother Will, and their privateer nephew Ned Pennyfeather; Paul Lanzerac and Solange Vauclain, guillotined by the Revolution; free-colored Xavier and Julie Premord, caught between Haitian blacks who distrust them and Haitain whites who despise them; Ranjit Banarjee, victim of his attempts to keep US officials from sending him back to Trinidad; and Cuban emigres Steve and Kate Calderon, whose small attempt to open diplomatic lines with Fidel Castro are met with summary justice. As usual in Michener, some family names are repeated, and the cruise in the final chapter brings together descendants of many of the earlier characters; also as usual, sledgehammer foreshadowing and repetitious moralizing take the place of thematic development. Michener is always Michener: this almanac in narrative form will give his huge following a lot of new information painlessly without putting them through any deeply imagined fictional experience.
Pub Date: Nov. 9th, 1989
ISBN: 0812974921
Page count: 672pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1989


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