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San Miguel Paperback – 1 Aug 2013


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Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Paperbacks (1 Aug. 2013)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 1408831376
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408831373
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 2.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 247,186 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

An involving historical read and yet another illustration of this author's astonishing range. There seems to be no subject or genre that Boyle won't tackle with brio (Lionel Shriver Guardian, Books of the Year)

Boyle tells an extraordinary story of human weakness and survival, with high intelligence and a terrific eye for detail (Kate Saunders The Times)

Though I generally shy from flap-copy hyperbole of this sort, T. C. Boyle is by far and away one of the most inventive, adventurous and accomplished fiction writers in the US today ... Most of all, he is a mesmerising storyteller, which is magnificently on display in his latest, San Miguel ... a dense, lushly detailed novel .... marking the exceptionally fine lines in San Miguel would have entailed underscoring the entire text ... this isn't a review, really. It's a love letter (Lionel Shriver Financial Times)

A history novel of almost heroic restraint, its prose remains resolutely unflashy, and its tone is sympathetic to the point of genuine warmth ... a touching, even gripping allegory of the doomed nature of human striving (James Walton Spectator)

A bareback ride into the abyss (Tom Cox Observer)

His evocations of landscape are vivid and he can dream up a cast of characters (Belinda McKeon Guardian)

[A] fine new novel ... He is [...] masterful at presenting this enclosed world, and he examines the debilitating effects of isolation on men and women (Philip Womack Daily Telegraph)

It's extraordinarily direct, sympathetic and pretty, with Boyle's characteristic aliveness to the past and its telling little details (Todd McEwen Glasgow Sunday Herald)

Mesmerising and elegiac ... Boyle skilfully captures that tension-filled quietude in the pared-down, mundane details of cleaning, cooking, caring for livestock and enduring the tedium of unchanging days (Scotsman)

Permeated with an elegiac tone ... Atmospherically it is resonant of The Piano, Jane Campion's passionate novel of pioneering tenacity ... A powerful meditation on the skirmish between character and circumstance in these marginal lives in America's history (Independent)

Book Description

The biggest novel yet from the master of American fiction, the New York Times bestselling author of The Women, T.C. Boyle

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Sue Kichenside TOP 500 REVIEWER on 18 Dec. 2012
Format: Hardcover
San Miguel is a tiny, desolate island off the west coast of America opposite Santa Barbara. It is an inhospitable place as far as humans, trees and plants are concerned though the sheep appear to thrive. Since the 1880s and throughout harsh economic times, the island has provided some sort of a "living" for anyone foolhardy enough to take on the management of the wool business, wool - and heartache - being the only things the island seems capable of producing.

The book opens, in 1888, with Marantha's story. Will Waters, Marantha's second husband, has persuaded her that the island's climate will be good for her tuberculosis; nothing could be further from the case. Nevertheless, Will drags Marantha, her adopted daughter Edith and their cook Ida to this new life on a remote and windswept island.

The story continues with Edith and her wretched attempts to escape from San Miguel. We then move to the 1930s. Once again, there are hard economic choices to be made and in this third and final part of the book, we meet Elise and Herbie Lester who genuinely love the place and want nothing more than to bring up a family there in peace and tranquillity.

Whilst all the characters are movingly conveyed with complete conviction and credibility, it is San Miguel which is the hero - or rather, the anti-hero - of the book. It is a formidable place realised by a formidable writer. The book is based on three real life stories.

ON A PERSONAL NOTE:

As an avid reader, I am absolutely ashamed to say that I knew nothing of T.C. Boyle's work before reading San Miguel. Indeed, so exquisitely does Mr Boyle capture the very essence of womanhood with his empathetic portrayals of his three main female protagonists, that I actually wondered whether the T and C stood for female names! (I never look at the back fly leaf until the end of a book.) This is a memorable book from a master storyteller and I couldn't recommend it more highly.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Geoff Crocker on 29 Oct. 2012
Format: Hardcover
T C Boyle's writing is utterly engaging. He draws his characters deeply, vividly, and empathetically. You get to know them. Their very personal life stories are set in the context of major cosmic issues - the hostility of nature intertwined with the hurt, brutality and warfare of humanity. And yet there is redemptive grace too, irrepressible joys, hospitality. Will Waters is totally in the grasp of the relentless familiar cycle of brutality. The war and the island's tough nature have brutalised him, and he cruelly brutalises Maranatha and Edith. His successor generation, Herbie Lester is war wounded rather than brutalised, and internalises this wound, though this still hurts the wife and daughters he loves. I wanted the book to finish because of the urge to know how the story ended, but I wanted it not to end since I'd so enjoyed feeling part of the event each day I read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By mfl VINE VOICE on 21 Feb. 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
San Miguel is T C Boyle's 14th novel. Throw in a long list of published short stories. If you haven't read nor heard of him, it's perhaps no surprise. Boyle is rarely visited by Hollywood and maybe that's because they don't come knocking or he doesn't answer. Backcover big life topics that make for the bestseller easy reads? Nope. At least if you've been here before that might be mildly contentious; for after all, T C Boyle is one of American fiction's finest life chroniclers. In a quiet corner sits any Boyle book where humankind is laid out universe large and glinting....

For now Boyle seems to take his women and his island life very seriously. San Miguel is third in an unconnected run of novels that deal vicariously with the same. Sitting and pondering all from his Santa Barbara home it all seems very close to home. That this is another fictional account of actual events needs to show inspiration enough.

If ever a reader wants to immerse in an alterlife then San Miguel delivers in the perfect script. Over several generations we are borne by the tide to the wilderness of the island and all from the perspective of its women. There is doom and gloom, some joy and much heartbreak but nonetheless some generous affirmation of life in windy conditions. Come the end you will be sad to leave. San Miguel is a book about hardship and devotion, about family and marital obligation, warring history and geography; the human condition and how it adapts and succumbs, controls and disappears. Therein lies Boyle the chronicler, the master of emotions, vital minutia and bringing old forgotten histories and diaries to life.

San Miguel is of course another fine novel from T C Boyle. But it doubtless will not fire the literary world alight.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER on 16 April 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a bleak and harsh read, as desolate as the eponymous, unwelcoming island which is almost a character in its own right. Focalised through three women, and set between 1888 and sometime after the second world war, there is little dialogue or external drama in this book, and instead the tensions are internalised. Misunderstanding and gulfs of experience open up between characters, rendering them isolated and frequently shorn of human warmth, even if unintentionally.

The narrative is punctuated by common events: the arrival of the sheep-shearers, the discovery of mice, Christmas. And even the war feels distant as the years flit by.

Ultimately this contrasts the futility and littleness of human lives with the enduring island which remains indifferent to the lives which have been lived upon it.

So not a book to choose if you're feeling even the slightest bit down as this certainly isn't a consoling read. I admired the writing, the control, and the restraint of the book but the austerity of the emotional vision just didn't speak to me.
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