THE SOURCE by James A. Michener


A Novel
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This endless diorama of gods, graves and a scholar begins at the archaeological site of an American, Cullinan, at Makor (in old Hebrew- The Source). Michener, whose globe-trotting (Hawaii, Afghanistan, etc.) makes him a sort of Lowell Thomas of the novel, extends his reach and his grasp this time to include not only the country of Israel, but 11,800 years of its history and religion in sequences relating to some artifact at the site (a flint, a phial, a Menorah, a coin, etc.). These intervals are also opened up by prefatory scenes in the present called "The Tell" which deal with Cullinan, who is at Makor on a five year dig, and Vered Bar-El, and Israeli expert in dating pottery, "a dark haired lovely Jewess from Bible times." (He falls in love with her; she will not go against her faith to marry a non-Jew.) However 95% of the book turns from the excavation to a reconstruction affording a synoptic view of Judaism, its religion, history and culture. The various periods are subdivided into "Levels" which proceed from cave to kibbutz; from Ur, the hunter, down through the centuries; from the earliest gods-- the trinity of El Shaddai, Baal and Astarte-- to one god, Yahweh, and all the ritual and the laws coincident with what was to prove as indestructible a faith as a people; from prehistory through the Old and New Testaments, into medieval Europe, past the Inquisition and finally down to the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Jews' moral rights to Israel, that "meeting place of dynamisms." Michener's Source prompts many basic questions: will his assiduous spadework and unquestionable sympathy meet an equivalent fortitude in a reader who is expecting a novel, which this is not? is dubbed in dialogue for the greatest story ever told a replacement for the Good Book which certainly said it better? how much of this can be assimilated in what is essentially a digest documentary presentation? Someone carped that Caravans was an "eighth grade geography lesson" and if so, this should take you through your achievement tests in religion, history and archaeology..... June Book-of-the-Month Club selection.
Pub Date: May 24th, 1965
ISBN: 0375760385
Page count: 930pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1965


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